Some years no Pulitzer Prize is awarded in a given category. Can you imagine how awful the nominees must feel? It would be bad enough to lose out to some other piece of work, but a “not awarded” tells every nominee, “No, you’re just not good enough.”

Well, for nine of the last ten years, the Supremes have declined to award a “Golden CAAF” to any military appellate defense counsel. (I’m just viciously ripping off Marcus Fulton’s “Golden CAAF” reference. I will no doubt continue to do so. Marcus, do I owe you a royalty?) I have found only four cert grants for CAAF cases over the last decade. Three of those were on petitions by the S.G. — Clinton v. Goldsmith, Scheffer, and a bunch of Scheffer trailers (see United States v. Mobley, 523 U.S. 1256 (1998)). The only grant I found for a petition filed by an accused was O’Connor v. United States, 535 U.S. 1014 (2002). In O’Connor, the Supremes GVRed for further consideration in light of Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coaltion, 535 U.S. 231 (2002). At the end of the day, however, O’Connor received no meaningful relief. After cleaning up the offenses of which he was convicted, the Air Force CCA ulimately held, “We are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that absent the error, the appellant’s sentence would not have been less than originally approved.” United States v. O’Connor, 2003 WL 22495721 (A.F. Ct. Crim. App. Oct. 29, 2003), aff’d, 60 M.J. 118 (C.A.A.F. 2004).

The last time the Supremes granted a cert petition filed by a military accused and gave the case plenary consideration was exactly eleven years ago today. Edmond v. United States, 516 U.S. 802 (1995). Of course, that case didn’t end happily for the defense. See Edmond v. United States, 520 U.S. 651 (1997). Edmond appears to be one of only eight cert petitions that resulted in the Supremes giving plenary review to a CAAF/CMA decision. (The others are Clinton v. Goldsmith, Scheffer, Loving, Ryder, Davis, Weiss, and Solorio.) There have also been a handful of GVRs.

If anyone is aware of any cert grants I overlooked, please let me know.

–Dwight Sullivan

One Response to “The Golden CAAF: A rare award”

  1. Marcus Fulton says:

    List of dumb issues addressed by the Supremes since last taking a military case (I’ll chip in the first two):

    1. Does Anna Nicole Smith gets to keep that old dude’s money?

    2. How central to the game of golf is walking the course?

    I guess I’d rather think about golf and Anna Nicole myself as opposed to “tinker[ing] with the machinery of death.” Any others that ought to be on the list?