ACCA has issued an opinion in United States v. Watson, another administrative discharge issued pending appeal, this time an officer.
A military judge sitting as a general court-martial convicted appellant,
pursuant to her pleas, of larceny of government property and fraud against the
United States (two specifications), in violation of Articles 121 and 132, Uniform
Code of Military Justice, 10 U.S.C. §§ 921 and 932 [hereinafter UCMJ]. The
military judge sentenced appellant to a dismissal, confinement for seven months, a
fine of $135,000, and forfeiture of all pay and allowances.
Prior to convening authority action, appellant, a reserve officer, was released
from active duty (REFRAD). While pending appellate review, appellant received
orders placing her in an inactive status. After convening authority action approving
her dismissal, she received discharge orders and an honorable discharge certificate.
As our court’s recent opinions reflect, when a soldier pending punitive
discharge receives an administrative discharge, contrary to regulation, the discharge
may be either void or voidable, depending on the explicit terms of the regulation
involved. In this case, we find appellant’s administrative discharge was issued
contrary to regulation.
In a detailed review of prior case law and applicable regulations ACCA decides that the administrative discharge was void. Based on the language in the case, it appears the Army is having a problem with favorable discharges being issued while an appeal is still pending.
Query, in this case was the client better served by withdrawing her appeal, and challenging the matter later in federal court? In this case it appears that the prosecution was able to take steps to correct the error because the appellant filed a brief raising the issue.