National Lawyers Guild Submits Comments for Improving Military Justice System to Department of Defense Military Justice Review Group

NEW YORK — The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) today submitted comments to the Defense Department’s Military Justice Review Group as part of its comprehensive review of the military justice system. Recommendations to improve More »

Report exposes mistreatment of GIs by Fort Hood leadership

Testimonies in ‘Fort Hood Report’ recount unethical health care practices, disregard of medical advice, violations of policy This Memorial Day a national group of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans marked the solemn holiday More »

MLTF’s James Branum interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!

MLTF member (and past co-chair) James M. Branum, an attorney in Oklahoma City, was a guest on Democracy Now! to talk about Bowe Bergdahl and the legal rights of war resisters. “There Were More »

Vieques: 10 years after U.S. bombing ends, struggle for justice in Puerto Rico continues

By Helen Jaccard and David Swanson Originally published in the September 2013 issue of On Watch, the MLTF quarterly newsletter. Ten years ago May 1, the people of Vieques, Puerto Rico, and More »

 

Op-Ed: Military Sexual Violence rooted in military culture

Curbing Convening Authority Power to Alter Court-Martial Convictions Is No Solution, Is Insufficient and Misses the Point

David Gespass

David Gespass

By David Gespass

There is no denying that “sexual assault” (a euphemism for rape and attempted rape) is a serious problem within the military. Indeed, it has always been a problem, though it may now be more serious from the point of view of military authorities because victims, increasingly, are other members of the armed forces rather than civilians.

To date, the solutions that have been proposed are, from the military, more training and, from various civilians (most notably, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand), stripping convening authorities of their power to alter court-martial convictions and sentences. The former has been spectacularly unsuccessful. The latter highlights the tension between two important ends, those of protecting people from sexual violence and protecting the due process rights of individuals accused of crime.

Thus far, there has been near universal acknowledgment that the problem exists but little has been done to address, much less solve, it. Indeed, even as sexual violence appears epidemic, elected officials tie themselves in knots praising our men and women in uniform while, at the same time, condemning perpetrators of such violence yet refusing even to consider that the culture of the armed forces promotes it. This is not to say that everyone who enlists is bound to become a predator. Rather, the soil of military culture is one in which potential predators can be nourished and thrive. And our elected officials are loath to suggest such a thing for fear of being criticized as disparaging “our” troops.

Non-Judicial Punishment: Middle Ground Between Admin Proceedings And Courts-Martial

 This material appeared in the June 2014 issue of On Watch (Volume XXV No.2). The PDF version of the issue is available in the On Watch archive, and a stand-alone memo version is pending. 

James M. Branum on Democracy Now, June 4 2014

James M. Branum on Democracy Now, June 4 2014

by James M. Branum

In this article I will be discussing an important area of the UCMJ, Article 15 (NPJ: Non-Judicial Punishment)1. NJP is used by commanders to deal with misconduct issues that are too serious to be dealt with using administrative corrective procedures, but are minor enough to not necessarily be appropriately handled through a full court-martial prosecution.2

While it is often neglected as area of concern by many attorneys, this is a mistake. NJP is one of the most powerful disciplinary tools used by commands to punish servicemembers for “crimes” while avoiding a formal court-martial proceeding.3 As such, the practical ramifications for servicemembers facing NJP can be serious.

In this article I will review the statutory and regulatory basis for NJP and then move to a practical discussion of tactics that can be used in dealing with a possible NJP. Much of this discussion will be relevant for all branches of the military, but I will only be discussing the branch-specific regulations of the Army. If your case involves another branch of the military, it is essential that you refer to the appropriate branch-specific regulations.

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June 2014 issue of On Watch now online

The latest issue of MLTF’s quarterly newsletter, On Watch, released to members and subscribers about a month ago, is now available to the public.

On Watch June, 2014 Vol. xxv No. 2 (PDF)

Titles in bold indicate that the article is published online in addition to in the PDF version of On Watch linked above.

Pentagon

National Lawyers Guild Submits Comments for Improving Military Justice System to Department of Defense Military Justice Review Group

NEW YORK — The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) today submitted comments to the Defense Department’s Military Justice Review Group as part of its comprehensive review of the military justice system. Recommendations to improve the system include eliminating the “convening authority” as the near-absolute final arbiter of what constitutes justice in a given case. The NLG also calls for eliminating criminal liability for acts that are purely military offenses, and for clarifying the effect of a conviction by summary court-martial.

“We are gratified that this review is taking place, as changes in the court martial system are long overdue. We do not believe that anything less than a complete restructuring of the way the military handles offenses can be adequate. We have, therefore, focused on large changes, rather than the many small details that could lead to some incremental improvement without altering the basic inequities that lead so many to see military justice as an oxymoron, said David Gespass, NLG past president and one of the authors of the comments.

Discharge Upgrade CLE at NYU School of Law on July 22

veterans advocacy projectOn Tuesday, July 22, 2014, the Urban Justice Center’s Veteran Advocacy Project (VAP) will be holding a free Discharge Upgrade CLE at the New York University School of Law from 9:30AM to 4:30PM.

Instructors will include MLTF members David Addlestone (Co-Director NVLSP 1989-2003, in-person), Kathleen Gilberd (Co-Chair, NLG Military Law Task Force, via Skype), and Becca von Behren (Swords to Plowshares, via Skype), as well as Liam McGivern (Legal Services of Greater Miami, via Skype) and Captain John Reeser, USN (President, Naval Discharge Review Board, in-person).

Priority seating will go to New York City attorneys who pledge to take a pro bono discharge upgrade case through the VAP Discharge Upgrade Clinic. Continental breakfast and lunch will be provided. The CLE will be taped and placed on the Internet at a later date. Please RSVP/register via email to veterans@urbanjustice.org