Now that we’re at the threshold of complete e-filing at CAAF, can we please drag the military justice system all the way into the 21st Century?
The 2008 edition of the MCM has been out-of-date for two years now. A couple of our wise readers noted below that the out-of-date MCM appears to have led the Coast Guard Court to err in its published decision in United States v. Sanchez, __ M.J. ___, No. 1320 (C.G. Ct. Crim. App. July 29, 2010). In a case tried in 2009, the Coast Guard Court held that the SJAR violated R.C.M. 1106(d)(3)’s requirement “to include length and character of service, awards and decorations received, and any records of non-judicial punishment and previous convictions.” The problem is, as two of our readers noted, the President removed those requirements from R.C.M. 1106(d)(3) in 2008. Exec. Order No. 13,468 (2008), reprinted at 73 Fed. Reg. 43,827, Annex Section 1 (h). Those changes took effect 24 August 2008. If a military appellate court doesn’t know what provisions in the 2008 MCM are no longer in effect, what hope is there for the rest of us?
As we previously noted, when the old three-ring binder version of the MCM was scrapped, DOD intended to issue a new paperback MCM every year. But the annual Manual plan lasted precisely two years. Not since 1996 has a new edition of the MCM come out the year following its predecessor.
I recognize that these budgetary times are tough and that printing a new edition of the MCM every year would be expensive. But there is an alternative that would cost practically nothing. This is what we suggested in February 2007:
Maybe the concept of publishing an entire new Manual and throwing away the old one is dated. Maybe it was a bad idea even in 1994 when it was originally hatched. But many years ago Al Gore invented this wonderful new device called the Internet. You know, that thing that allows me to post this rant and allows you to read it. Can’t DOD at least post an annual updated version of the MCM, even if it doesn’t want to devote the expense and cause the deforestation necessary to print it?
Sanchez demonstrates that the time for the annual e-Manual has arrived. Presumably someone in DOD maintains a Microsoft Word copy of the MCM that is then turned into a hard copy. Why doesn’t that person input the 2008 amendments to the MCM and plug all of the UCMJ amendments into Appendix 2 and then post that up-to-date version of the MCM online? DOD could then continue to update it with each new MCM revision or UCMJ amendment until a new version is published. We’d all have access to a current version of the MCM at no cost to DOD.
If anyone out there who is more tech savvy than am I (and if you’ve managed to navigate to this website, you’re almost certainly in that group) can figure out have to input the changes into this electronic copy of the 2008 MCM, let us know and I’ll try to post an updated version of the MCM myself.