As Dennis Miller might say, now I don’t want to get off on a rant here, but why are we continuing to use a Manual for Courts-Martial that has been out of date for well more than a year? (Actually, it was already out of date when it was published. More on that below.)

When DOD switched from the three-ring binder version of the 1984 Manual to complete reprints, the expectation was that a new Manual would come out with each Executive Order amending the Manual. A 1994 Army Lawyer article explained: “Change 6 and recent legislative (UCMJ) changes have been incorporated into the Manual scheduled for publication in 1994. The reprinted Manual will be a single, soft-bound volume and will be republished annually or as changes are required.” Lieutenant Colonel Eugene R. Milhizer & Lieutenant Colonel Thomas W. McShane, Analysis of Change 6 to the 1984 Manual for Courts-Martial, Army Law., May 1994, at 40, 47.

Things sure haven’t worked out that way. Only six soft-bound Manuals have been issued: 1994, 1995, 1998, 2000, 2002, and 2005. Consider what is not in the current Manual: the 2005 Amendments to the Manual for Courts-Martial, published on 18 October 2005, 70 Fed. Reg. 60,697; the UCMJ amendments made by the FY 2006 DOD Authorization Act, Pub L. No. 109-163; and the UCMJ amendments made by the FY 2007 DOD Authorization Act, Pub. L. No. 109-364.

Maybe the concept of publishing an entire new Manual and throwing away the old one is dated. Maybe it was a bad idea even in 1994 when it was originally hatched. But many years ago Al Gore invented this wonderful new device called the Internet. You know, that thing that allows me to post this rant and allows you to read it. Can’t DOD at least post an annual updated version of the MCM, even if it doesn’t want to devote the expense and cause the deforestation necessary to print it?

Oh, and maybe the online version of the MCM could include UCMJ article 25a, which Congress adopted in 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-107, but which was omitted from both the 2002 and 2005 editions of the Manual.

Of course, that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.

–Dwight Sullivan

4 Responses to “Annual Manual?”

  1. John O'Connor says:

    That would just make too much sense. Why would there be a need for a current manual, what with the worldwide jurisdiction and the frequency of courts-martial aboard ship or while deployed? But then, I guess most trial counsel and trial defense counsel never read the Manual anyway, so what does it matter . . .

  2. Jason Grover says:

    Such comments remind me of one of the best quotes to come out of a MJ’s mouth- “And don’t look at the manual.”

  3. CAAFlog says:

    Super G, worse yet, that was in a capital case, n’est ce pas?

  4. Jason Grover says:

    It was, in reference to a partial-mental responsibility issue.