Yesterday’s oral argument in Wilson, a short one regarding the meaning of a CA’s action, reminded me of why arguments are so much fun. Taking a relatively boring issue, Maj Rick Belliss did his best to spice it up. The argument was about whether the NMCCA erred by affirming a dishonorable discharge that the CA had not clearly approved or disapproved. Maj Belliss started out with an analogy regarding the different meanings of football to different cultures, arguing that the specific words mean different things to individual subsets of people. He linked this up by arguing in the military justice world, you approve a sentence by saying you approve it. And if you don’t say it, you didn’t do it.
Judge Ryan asks the first question. She starts off with, “can I ask a couple of questions?” Deadpan, Maj Belliss replies, “absolutely.”
There was a very interesting exchange regarding an affidavit by the CA explaining himself. Judge Stucky asked Maj Belliss about the affidavit. But back on 1 Feb 2007, CAAF denied the government’s motion to attach an affidavit. As Maj Belliss started to respond, Judge Baker jumped in asking if the affidavit was even before them. CJ Effron then jumped in with an unrelated question.
The argument was a great example of every case can be interesting and counsel should never shortchange an argument. BZ to Maj Belliss in what I believe is his first oral argument.