CAAF issued a unanimous opinion by Judge Stucky today in United States v. Harris, __ M.J. ___, No. 07-0508/MC (C.A.A.F. Mar. 25, 2008). Judge Stucky wrote in his customary (and most welcome) BLUF format, so I’ll let him deliver the bottom line:
We granted review to consider whether the United States Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals erred by failing to award Appellant sufficient additional pretrial confinement credit for unduly rigorous brig conditions and improper denial of necessary medical care, and whether the relief the court ordered was meaningful. We hold that Appellant failed to meet his burden to establish his entitlement to additional confinement credit, and any meaningful relief would be disproportionate to any harm that Appellant may have suffered.
Id., slip op. at 2.
The most interesting portion of the opinion isn’t its synopsis of PFC Harris’s litany of complaints about his pretrial confinement. Rather, the most interesting portion deals with the meaningless relief that NMCCA awarded. Judge Stucky explains, “By the time the Court of Criminal Appeals granted him the additional 186 days of credit, Appellant had served the full term of his confinement and been
out of confinement for over two years. There was no pending confinement against which the credits could be applied.” Id., slip op. at 8. PFC Harris therefore complained that NMCCA “failed to grant him appropriate relief.” Id. CAAF’s response is, basically, “tough.” CAAF suggests that awarding relief that would be meaningful at this point would “be disproportionate to any harm he may have suffered.” Id., slip op. at 9. So it appears that the end result of United States v. Harris is that PFC Harris will receive no compensation for being unlawfully subjected to six months of confinement. Whether legally correct or not, that outcome certainly doesn’t seem fair.