The link to the Cox Commission II hearing webcast seems to have died. Perhaps NIMJ will be able to restore the link or post the video to a permanent site. In the meantime, here’s a quick report about yesterday’s proceedings.
Five of the commission members were present: Judge Cox, Judge Wilkins, Professor Saltzburg, RADM Guter, and MG Nash. Both of the commission’s reporters — Professors Beth Hillman and Vic Hansen — were also there.
Judge Cox began the proceedings in the most appropriate way possible — observing a moment of silence to remember Judge Everett and Kevin Barry. After Judge Cox’s introductory remarks, Phil Cave — speaking on behalf of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia — made the first presentation to the commission. Phil recommended augmenting the resources available to the defense in court-martial cases and a more open rulemaking process for the military justice system.
The next presentation was by Tom Sullivan — a partner at Jenner & Block and the former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. Mr. Sullivan is the nation’s leading expert on recording stationhouse interrogations. He spoke in favor of adopting a requirement that federal law enforcement agencies — including the military’s — record stationhouse interrogations in serious felony cases. I was pleased to hear that he doesn’t recommend an exclusionary rule in the event that such a requirement is violated. Rather, he supports an instruction advising the jury/panel that the interrogation wasn’t recorded and that such a recording would have been a more accurate way to present any resulting admissions. Phil Cave has posted links to a report and an article by Mr. Sullivan here. Mr. Sullivan’s 2008 American Criminal Law Review article called Recording Federal Custodial Interviews is available here. For me, Mr. Sullivan’s presentation was the highlight of the day.
My presentation followed Mr. Sullivan’s. I used the Navy JAG’s recent reversal of the United States v. House court-martial conviction as a vehicle for exploring needed reforms in the military justice system. I recommended greater equality in the parties’ access to subpoenas and litigation resources. I also advocated allowing any servicemember convicted of a contested charge or specification by a general or special court-martial to appeal that conviction to the appropriate CCA. And I advocated adoption of the JO’Cian proposal to allow waiver of appellate review as a negotiated pretrial agreement provision, which JO’C advanced in this law review article. John F. O’Connor, Foolish Consistencies and the Appellate Review of Courts-Martial, 41 Akron L. Rev. 175 (2008). And here are links to my written proposals concerning: (1) equalization of access to subpoenas; (2) appellate review of contested subjurisdictional cases; (3) waiver of appellate review as a negotiated pretrial agreement term; and (4) allowing an accused in a military capital court-martial to plead guilty.
A representative of SLDN then spoke, followed by two spokespeople for a veterans’ group. Judge Cox then invited Theodore Essex to address the commission. Mr. Essex was the lead author of an article quite critical of the first Cox Commission report. Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Essex and Major Leslea Pickle, A Reply to the Cox Commission on the 50th Anniversary of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, 52 A.F.L. Rev 233 (2002). In his presentation, Mr. Essex advocated farming general officer misconduct cases out to DOJ and raised concerns about the waiver-of-appellate-review-as-a-negotiated-pretrial-agreement-term proposal. CAAFlog contributor Cully Stimson of the Heritage Foundation then spoke, discussing innovations from state criminal justice systems that the military may want to emulate, such as a no drop policy for domestic abuse cases instituted by the San Diego D.A.’s office and a child homicide statute that omits any malice element, such as California Penal Code § 273ab, which provides: “Any person who, having the care or custody of a child who is under eight years of age, assaults the child by means of force that to a reasonable person would be likely to produce great bodily injury, resulting in the child’s death, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for 25 years to life.”
The hearing ended with reports from the commission’s two reporters. Professor Vic Hansen spoke first. He cautioned that changes in one area of the military justice system could knock down dominoes that would affect other areas. He noted that some proposed reforms implicated larger philosophical issues about the role of the military judge and the role of the convening authority. He raised the issue of the extent to which staff judge advocates should supervise the prosecution function. And he questioned whether summary courts-martial should be retained or abolished.
Professor Beth Hillman closed out the hearing. Her elegant weaving of themes from the hearing and recent military justice developments would be the envy of even the Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries’ creators. She noted recurring questions concerning the extent of the right of appeal within the military justice system and the powers of the system’s courts. Themes of unnecessary or unwise diversions of appellate resources and equality influence whether reform is appropriate. She noted questions concerning whether military appellate courts should specify issues not raised by counsel. She also raised the issue of whether the DuBay hearing mechanism should be codified.
The entire hearing lasted only about 3-1/2 hours. For a military justice wonk, it was time well spent.