I thought I would bring up something that caught my attention while I was deployed. Many readers are probably familiar with AFN–American Forces Network, formerly known as Armed Forces Network. AFN provides commercial American television programming to service members stationed all over the world. During commercial breaks, AFN runs military-oriented public service spots instead of commercials. They usually deal with subjects such as operational security or drug abuse prevention. A surprising number of them, however, deal with legal matters. Viewers considering changing their state of legal residence, for example, are cautioned to visit their legal office for all the pros and cons before making any rash decisions. If you’re thinking about getting a power of attorney, check with the legal office to decide whether you really want to grant general power of attorney. The spots have pretty high production values. They feature professional actors and clever scenarios to make their points.
One spot in particular made me do a double take. A woman dressed in a business suit that claimed to have been both a judge advocate and a civilian lawyer delivers a message favorably comparing an accused’s rights at a court-martial to a defendant’s rights at a civilian trial. One comparison in particular made me do a double take. The speaker said that a military accused has a superior right to a trial by his or her peers at a court-martial compared to a civilian trial. There’s no explanation for that conclusion, it’s just one item in a short list of areas in which courts-martial are favorably compared to civilian trials. If by peers the speaker means superiors she might be on to something. Otherwise, I don’t think it’s a defensible statement. I’m not even aware that Article 25 is calculated to produce a panel of the accused’s peers; for better or worse that’s one of the most distinctive things about a court-martial.
Who’s responsible for the spot, anyway? Someone must have thought it necessary to market the UCMJ to the service members that are subject to it. Is there some larger concern for the UCMJ’s image in the service that I’m not aware of? Was there JAG input into the spot? Into the script?
I only saw the spot one or two times. Maybe an overseas reader can fill in a little more. And if anyone knows what the producers of the spot were trying to accomplish, I’d like to know.