On Friday, CAAF distributed to the various appellate divisions hard copies of the FY 2009 Annual Report of the Code Committee on Military Justice.  (An electronic version is available here.)  I’ve had a busy Easter weekend, so I haven’t had as much chance to play with the numbers as I would have liked.  But I did crunch a few numbers.

Overall, the total GCM/SPCM case load dipped about 2% from FY 2008 to FY 2009. But that overall decrease was due almost entirely to a reduction in Naval courts-martial.  The number of both GCMs and SPCMs increased in both the Army and the Air Force — with the number of Air Force SPCMs increasing by a huge 16.38% from FY 2008 to FY 2009.  But in the Department of the Navy, the number of GCMs sank by 13% and the number of SPCMs by 11% from FY 2008 to FY 2009.  (The Coast Guard tried one fewer GCM in FY 2009 compared to FY 2008 while the number of Coast Guard SPCMs was unchanged.)  Interestingly, despite the large jump in Air Force SPCM cases tried in FY 2009, the number that will go on for appellate review actually shrank due to a small increase in the percentage of Air Force SPCMs ending in acquittal and an 8% drop in the percentage of Air Force SPCMs ending in a conviction that resulted in a BCD.

The other thing I looked at was the military justice system’s acquittal rate.  The overall acquittal rate was almost unchanged from FY 2008 to FY 2009 (7.65136% in FY 2008 compared to 7.65306% in FY 2009).  But the acquittal rate differed significantly from service to service.  For example, in both FY 2008 and FY 2009, the percentage of Air Force GCMs ending in a acquittal was more than twice that for the Army.

11 Responses to “Military justice FY 2009 stats”

  1. Dr. Horrible says:

    interesting stats for the Navy court martial rate. It has steadily declined the 8 or so years I have been in.

    Anyone hear how/if this might affect the MJLQ?

  2. Michael Lowrey says:

    It’s actually almost certainly the Marine court martial rate. Five in six Navy/Marine court martials are of Marines (!).

  3. Michael Lowrey says:

    I haven’t looked at the back-year numbers, but what I find most striking is just how military justice varies between the services:

    General court martials:
    Army: 584 convicted/638 tried = 91.5% conviction rate
    Navy/Marines: 205/234: 87.6% conviction rate (140 of 234 Marine)
    Air Force: 187/222: 84.2% conviction rate
    Coast Guard: 9/12 = 75% conviction rate

    Special court martials:
    Army: 500/528: 94.7% conviction rate
    Navy/marines: 834/878 = 95.0% conviction rate (675 of 878 Marine)
    Air Force: 386/419 = 92.1% conviction rate
    Coast Guard: 19/19 = 100% conviction rate

    Summary court martials:
    Army: ?/946 = ? conviction rate
    Navy/Marine: 1851/1871 = 98.9% conviction rate (1670 of 1871 Marine)
    Air Force: 114/114 = 100% conviction rate
    Coast Guard: 14/14 = 100% conviction rate

    The obvious point is that Army really likes GCMs, and obtains convictions at a higher rate than two other services. But why? More guilty pleas in GCM cases that in other services would have gone to a SPCM?

    The number of Navy/Marine court martials was actual up 1% as compared to the previous year. Summary court martials were up 9% while general and special court martials were down as Dwight indicated. So it seems that some cases were simply being referred to a lower level for trial.

  4. Anon says:

    One big question is how each service handles drug cases, that alone could account for the GCM/SPCM disparity if the Army is sending more drug cases to GCMs while the Navy send them to SPCMs.

    I also wonder about PTSD. Probably statistically more likely overall to have it in the Army than the Navy (although the Marines could quickly bring that up to par) but if there is a disparity we know that having PTSD can often lead to a brush with the criminal justice system.

    What is interesting is also the number of GCMs the Air Force did which is almost the same as the much larger Navy/MC.

  5. Anonymous says:

    One must also remember that Navy JAGs, some with the MJLQ, do service a portion of the USMC cases as TC and TDC although I cannot say with any specificity the exact percentage (and I believe Marine TC and TDC may also service some Navy accused, but my anecdotal evidence suggests it is to a lesser degree). Likewise, Navy and Marine Judges do preside in Navy and Marine Courts, although I do not know the apportionment. Finally both Navy and Marine attorneys work both types of cases in the appellate world, although I do not have the numbers of appellate attorneys and judges.

  6. Balkan Ghost says:

    My take:

    The Code Committee once again dodged its statutory obligation in UCMJ Art. 146 that it shall make annual recommendations relating to sentencing policies, amendments, and other matters. It again punted and said basically, “Matters considered by the JSC are enclosed.”

    (The CAAF judges on the CC may believe that these are policy matters not for judges, but they should at least note to Congress their position on the matter and note that Code Committee is not providing any recommendations for any changes to military justice. The Code Committee report on petitions granted, etc., tells Congress very little about the state of military justice.)

    The report is too long. There’s just no need for a seven-page Army LitDiv report detailing every major case. Much of the service reports was duplicative, or repeated from last year’s report. This whole report should be 40 pages, not 101.

    Three Army JAs getting LL.Ms in “prosecutorial science” – building up the team for capital cases??

    The services still aren’t reporting anything about admin separations, especially those for mental conditions and discharges in lieu of court-martial, despite Congress’ ever-increasing interest and scrutiny. It’s time to re-jigger the two-page stats sheet to reflect these.

    Army and Navy/Marines both had very high judge alone trial rates, around 80%. AF was lower, about two-thirds.

    Army Trial Judiciary announces to Congress its publically accessible internet docket. That should go a long way towards making Army justice less opaque and easier to follow around the world.

    Art. 138 is a redress that seems to only be really alive in the Navy/Marines, with 57 reported uses last year.

    Army finally had its Kramer vs. Kramer in Gray v. Gray, where PVT Gray sued the commander of the DB, COL Gray. Relatives? Turf battle over the DB only being big enough for one Gray??

    Happy reading.

  7. Some Navy Guy says:

    You cannot forget that the USN does all the defending of the USCG so every USCG case is really another USN DC case. We end up defending all the Navy, all the USCG and some of the USMC. Which is fine b/c the USN doesn’t charge anyone anymore so at least we have some work to do. Also, the USN doesn’t bother to prosecute lots of classes of case, such as drug pops, unless its a mast refusal.

  8. Phil Cave says:

    1. No allowance for “Defense Science,” so once again the school solution in favor of prosecution and biased allocation of training and assets?
    2. It’s been my experience to have Coastie defense counsel in Coastie cases and in Navy cases. They do good work! There’s usually at least one Coastie at Norfolk, and I think at San Diego.

  9. Dr. Horrible says:

    From what I recall during my Navy Norfolk days, there were 1 CG TC and 1-2 USMC TCs at the TSO and 2-4 CG DCs at the NLSO.

    It seemed — to me at least — their competence in the courtroom was inversely proportional to their rank.

  10. JimmyMac says:

    Revealing excerpt – “…at least we have some work to do…”. I understand there is Congressionally mandated “commission” being convened to look at USMC and USN judge advocate staffing. Perhaps they should call “Some Navy Guy” to testify as to their workload?

  11. JimmyMac says:

    Unfortunately, it took me a few days before I really took a close look at the Department of the Navy report. There are some alarming numbers there but since this post is now on page two of the blog, I doubt anybody will read this…but here goes.

    Like most attorneys, if I was good at math I would have been a physician. However, my simple math reveals the following:

    I think we must assume the numbers in the Statistical Appendix includes USMC statistics. If that is accurate, then we can calculate Navy numbers by reference to the USMC matrix included in the narrative. By that logic, Navy JAGs (I will include the USMC and USCG judge advocates and legal specialists) tried a total of 297 courts-martial – 94 GCMs and 203 SPCMs. The Navy narrative reports 386 judge advocates assigned to Naval Legal Service Command. Now, obviously not all of those are assigned as TC and DC. Can we assume half of them are? Or how about 1/3 of those 386 are TC and DC. That means 127 judge advocates are chasing 297 cases per year! Let’s say half of those are TC and the other half DC. Your “typical” Navy DC or TC tries 4.7 cases PER YEAR!!!! OK, wait. Let’s go at this a different way. Let’s assume your average TC and DC can try one case per week. That’s roughly 50 cases per year per counsel. If that is a fair “pace”, you would need about six TC and six DC to try 297 cases in one year.

    Please, somebody debunk my math!