Instead, go directly to the TJAGLCS web site and click on the Army Lawyer link. Then click on the October 2007 link. (It’s actually the October 2006 issue — maybe that glitch will be cured by the time you log on.) Then click on the “Anatomy of a Random Court-Martial Panel” link. Now read the article. Go ahead. We’ll wait.
Done? What did you think? I can’t recall the last time I read a law review article this fresh and interesting. The article recounts a random court-martial member selection process implemented by V Corps. The CG obtained nominations for 500 court-martial members. From these, he selected 100 — 50 officers and 50 enlisted. Then, each individual court-martial panel was randomly selected from among those pools.
I am also fascinated by LTC Huestis’s explanation for what prompted this innovation: “First, the Staff Judge Advocate (SJA), Colonel (COL) Michele M. Miller, and the Commanding General, LTG Ricardo S. Sanchez, believed that the change would benefit Soldiers. At a minimum, by adapting a random seating system that more closely mirrored the popular American notion of how a fair trial should work, Soldiers’ impressions of the military justice system would improve. Second, by doing this from within, V Corps could control the details of execution and fine-tune the new process over time.” Lieutenant Colonel Bradley J. Huestis, Anatomy of a Random Court-Martial Panel, Army Law., Oct. 2006, at 22, 25-26.
In his selection order, LTG Sanchez observed, “I have selected a large pool of panel members, both officer and enlisted, from which panels for particular courts-martial will be randomly selected. This large pool of panel members ensures that more soldiers are actively involved in the military justice system, and that the military justice system in V Corps is as representative of the community as possible, while still adhering to the high standards of having the best qualified panel members under Article 25, UCMJ.” Id. at 27.
The article also recounts the initial test of the new system, which withstood judicial scrutiny at the court-martial level. Id. at 29-30. The military judge in that case was COL Denise Lind, a very impressive judge advocate. That case didn’t produce a sentence falling within ACCA’s automatic jurisdiction, but presumably some of the V Corps cases from 2005 have made it up to ACCA by now. Hey Army Lurker, any judicial action on this concept yet?
The article also recounts various implementing individuals’ assessments of the pros and cons of the new system. But the article’s conclusion leaves little doubt about the author’s view that the experiment was a success:
By testing a randomly seated panel system, LTG Sanchez took a calculated risk to benefit his command. By using a pool of qualified members and the [Random Number Sequence] seating system, he was able to seat random panels while still adhering to the high standards of having the best qualified panel members in accordance with Article 25, UCMJ. By selecting a large pool of panel members from which panels for particular courts-martial were randomly seated, LTG Sanchez actively involved more of his Soldiers in the military justice system. These courts-martial panels were also more representative of the V Corps community. By taking this risk and implementing a new method of seating panels, LTG Sanchez and COL Miller were able to move the V Corps panel selection and seating systems closer to the American ideal of fairness and due process without adversely impacting the Corps’ good order and discipline or military mission.
Do you agree with LTC Huestis? Is this system a desirable revision? Should it be formally required by statute or RCM? Is it sufficient — if the system were reformed this far and no more, would that eliminate criticism of the CA member selection system? Let’s hash this one out.