The vast majority of the comments on CAAFlog are valuable and appreciated.  But I continue to believe that comments that trash others from behind a veil of anonymity are inappropriate.  I’m reminded of what Justice Scalia wrote in his separate opinion in this week’s Doe v. Reed decision:

Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed.  For my part, I do not look forward to a society which, thanks to the Supreme Court, campaigns anonymously and even exercises the direct democracy of initiative and referendum hidden from public scrutiny and protected from the accountability of criticism.  This does not resemble the Home of the Brave.

I assume that most of the people who leave comments on this blog are military officers, attorneys, or both.  I hope you’ll agree that as a matter of professionalism, neither military officers nor attorneys should anonymously trash others.

If you are going to criticize others in the comment section of this blog, please post under your actual name.  If you want to post anonymously, please don’t criticize anyone.

17 Responses to “Home of the Brave”

  1. Look, pal says:

    What’s the genesis of this admonition? In terms of open access blogs, this site is the tamest of tame when it comes to comments. Did someone get his feelings hurt?

  2. Dwight Sullivan says:

    The immediate genesis was reading Justice Scalia’s Doe concurrence. I drafted a post about it on Thurdsay night but then deleted it because this blog should be about naval gazing, not navel gazing. But then I read a bunch of anonymous comments just trashing various Navy JAG officers. I didn’t hear from any of the trashees and I have no idea whether they read this blog. So, no, my post wasn’t about hurt feelings. It was about professionalism.

    I don’t think those Navy JAG officers should be immune from criticism. But I do think it’s gutless for someone (particularly another military officer or another attorney) to criticize them in print without being willing to attach his or her name to that criticism — similar to the point that Justice Scalia made at oral argument in Doe and repeated in his Doe concurrence.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The problem with attaching a name when you’re an attorney and military could be Article 89 for some. Or, maybe the poster still has to work with that other person and doesn’t want to burn bridges, but feels compelled to let others know who their colleagues are (to them at least, maybe others). You all have personalities that you bring to the job. You’re charged with implementing military justice. Shouldn’t we know exactly who’s doing the implementing? Civilians get to know who their DAs, judges, and rascally defense attorneys are. In light of recent posts here, I’d think you’d all want to know if one of your colleagues was one of those guano-crazy birthers.

    Is the following really the new policy for comments? “If you are going to criticize others in the comment section of this blog, please post under your actual name. If you want to post anonymously, please don’t criticize anyone.”

    If so, I think that’s a bit extreme. Sure that’s criticism. I still don’t want to attach my name.

  4. Dwight Sullivan says:

    Anon 2211, I have no problem with the anonymity of your post. You criticized an idea I offered. That’s fine. You didn’t anonymously trash LCDR X — which I don’t think is fine.

    You ask, “Shouldn’t we know exactly who’s doing the implementing?” Well, shouldn’t we know exactly who’s offering purported information about who’s doing the implementing?

    Let’s say someone posts a comment saying “LCDR X is a birther.” (I won’t use the phrase “guano-crazy birther” because it’s redundant.) How do I know it’s true that LCDR X is a birther? How do I know that the poster isn’t someone who has a personal grudge against LCDR X, someone who is seeking an unfair litigation advantage against LCDR X, or someone who is competing in a promotion zone against LCDR X and is trying to damage LCDR X’s reputation?

    Attaching an actual name to such personal criticism helps in two ways: (1) we may be led to question the motive for a post if we know who made the post; and (2) untrue or reckless charges will be deterred by requiring that the criticizer attach his or her name to the post.

    Your first point suggests — correctly, no doubt — that some critical posts that are made anonymously wouldn’t be made if the individual were required to attach his or her name to the criticism. But for all of the reasons set out above, I think that the value of anonymous personal attacks is diminished.

    Before the rather recent invention of blogs, it wasn’t possible to anonymously trash superiors or colleagues in a widely available forum. Just because technology recently made it possible to do so doesn’t mean that it’s good to do so.

  5. anonymous says:

    Rarely are any of the anonymous posters engaging in a political act analogous to supporting a state initiative or referendum. I think most people would agree the identity of these individuals should be public.

    On the other, I think the very reason personal attacks should remain anonymous is precisely because of their diminished value and the lack of any means to determine their reliability. No one needs to take them seriously, let alone the subject of the attack. Having the poster attach his name to the attack would simply raise the discussion to a whole new level of personal.

    I believe if you’re going to trash people you should at least have the decency to do it behind their backs, and staying anonymous is even better.

  6. Socrates says:

    Anon at 0934, you can’t be serious. Your post is illogical at every level. CAAFlog scrutinizes military law, and sometimes advocates reform, even if implicitly, in an analagous way to proponents of state laws and referendums. Then, you make the argument that “personal attacks should remain anonymous is precisely because of their diminished value…” What?! If no one takes an anonymous attack seriously, then the attack need not be uttered in the first place. Then, you top-off your Devil’s Etiquette with this: “If you’re going to trash people you should at least have the decency to do it beyind their backs…” I do not think the word “decent” belongs in this ridiculous sentence. Advocating or trashing ideas anonymously (e.g., Federalist Papers – Publius) seems fine. But I think the Declaration of Independence would have lost some of its historical significance if it had read something like: “King George is an asshole (…and he’s not even a natural born citizen of England). Signed: Anonymous at 1776.

  7. Southern Defense Counsel says:

    I’d agree that slams personal attacks etc should have names attached (or not posted) but I disagree that we should attach our names when saying “DC/TC/MJ was wrong, missed this issue, etc” even if we know said person. Just don’t bring in personal knowledge about a person without attaching your name.

  8. anonymous says:

    To Socrates: That’s the beauty of posting anonymously, I may be serious but you’ll never know for sure.

    As to illogic, what’s the greater threat to good order and discipline and the reputation of the service: an anonymous personal attack on someone who may or may not be an officer superior in rank or position to the poster, or, a personal attack identifying the person who posted, leaving no doubt as to that person’s status, rank or position?

    Bottom line, maybe this should be our guide in conducting ourselves in this forum and not — no disrespect intended — Justice Scalia’s opinion or, for that matter, the opinion of the Supreme Court.

    The rule I would propose is that posters feeling the need to make personal attacks — for whatever reason — not only do so anonymously, but with the post otherwise so thoroughly de-identifed that no reasonable inference can be drawn about the poster’s rank, status, or position (with the further understanding that no reasonable inference about the same will be drawn merely because the poster consorts with officers who are known to engage in open acts of military justice or is rumored to frequent public places where they assemble for said purpose).

    I wholly agree, though, with your opinion on the necessity and value of making personal attacks in the first place.

  9. An says:

    it’s easy for Justice Scalia to say…we should all be so luck to have that kind of job security!

    That being said, I can see your point. When I saw that story about the Navy TC asking for a BCD for an officer all I could think about was all of the knuckleheaded mistakes I made as a TC. It’s so easy to be overwhelmed, you assume a tremendous amount of responsibility sometimes without having the faintest clue of what you are doing, and when you don’t have a good mentor/MJ (thanks Judge Masterton!) to look out for you, bad things can happen. “There but for the grace of God go I…”

  10. AF says:

    Amen to An’s last sentence. Experienced MJs bailed me or opposing counsel on many occasions. That is what is bothersome about this and the other story. We will always have junior counsel, but let’s hope we don’t lose the experienced ones. I think the Navy’s MJ specialist expert program is a good start.

  11. Charles Gittins says:

    I totally agree with Dwight. If you don’t have the courage to put your name to the criticism you choose to post, you don’t have the gravitas to make a comment. Hiding behind anonymity is hsameful and cowardly.

  12. Charles Gittins says:

    It is not the job of the MJ to “bail out” the TC or the DC. That is one of the fundamental weaknesses in MJ practice . . . . military judges generally feel it their duty to fix the errors made by TC/DCs. That is NOT their job and you never see it happen in courts with civilian judges who need not be concerned about their next military assignment.

  13. An says:

    Mr. Gittins-
    I didn’t mean to imply it WAS the MJ’s job-just that I am thankful that they were there. There will ALWAYS be situations where the experienced counsel are not there for the newbies to guide them, whether due to leave, deployment, whatever. this is an instance where we can learn from the civilian system, in that having counsel serve in an apprenticeship fashion where they can observe the process before having greatness thrust upon them would be beneficial. Though this may be the norm at larger, divisional posts, I suspect at those posts where there may be only one or two JAGs it can be hit or miss.
    Again, I have been exceedingly blessed to have wonderful teachers and mentors during my career…I just wonder about those who are not so lucky.

  14. Anonymous says:

    People don’t want their names showing up in court-pleadings nor do they want to be challenged based on something they posted on CAAFLog. When Code 45’s main mission is to create new law out of whole cloth, one has to be careful.

  15. Anonymous says:

    And Charlie- there is no comparison between the civilian sytem and ours when it comes to judges. Civilan judges get much more deference than MJs do. There is no such thing as an appellate argument, “The judge committed plain error when he failed to intervemne sua sponte” to cure the DC’s errors, which is an issue you actually raised in an officer case at NMCCA a few years ago. CCAs/CAAF are so paternalistic with the plain error doctrine and their outright refusal to apply forfeiture or waiver an MJ has to be the same in his/her courtroom.

  16. AF says:

    And perhaps my choice of the words “bail out” was not good. However, I was thankful to work in a system that placed the efficient and professional administration of justice as its priority. For the most part, judges, trial and defense counsel, court reporters, and paralegals all worked to make the system a good one. If that meant pointing out errors, then that is a good thing.
    I re-read the comments to the other blog and I agree with the original premise of this blog stream (is that the right word). One thing to critize ideas and concept but it becomes stupid when when it becomes personal.

  17. John Harwood says:

    Bravo, Col Sullivan! I’ve yet to hear any good reason to post anonymously. Afraid of Art 89? If what you’re posting could constitute a violation of the Code, should you be saying it at all? Want to dish some dirt on someone? Have the courage to say it openly – to hide behind anonymity has a bit of a yellow tinge to it.