Yesterday morning brought notable jurists, both civilian and military, and a host of current and former TJAGs to 450 E Street NW to mark the 100th anniversary of the first building in DC dedicated as a courthouse. For the past century, the court has housed the DC Circuit and the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and their respective predecessors.

Chief Judge Andrew Effron opened the ceremony, during which US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts (before departing for the formal swearing-in of new Associate Justice Elena Kagan) and Chief Judge David Sentelle of the DC Circuit assisted in unveiling a plaque commemorating the building’s history.

As the chair of the Centennial Committee, Judge Scott Stucky presented a history of the building which houses a truly beautiful courtroom that evokes an earlier era in Washington. He began by answering a question that had occurred to me: Why celebrate a building? After pointing out that media headlines often lead with headlines such as “Pentagon Plans New Initiatives” and “White House Issues New Executive Orders,” he aptly made the point that buildings in our nation’s capital become synonymous with the institutions housed there.

Professor Steven Goldblatt, chair of CAAF’s Rules Advisory Committee, noted in his remarks to the full courtroom assembled for the occasion that both courts arrived at the building with much less stature than they came to enjoy over the course of time. Of course, today the DC Circuit is widely recognized as the second-most powerful court in the nation, after the Supreme Court itself. Professor Goldblatt reminded the crowd of the historical military legacy of unlawful command influence and uneven discipline that preceded the enactment of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The creation of the UCMJ and the court composed of civilians that evolved into CAAF occurred only shortly before the court moved into 450 E Street. Over the years, having civilian control of the military judiciary and adding access (albeit, limited) to the Supreme Court both give military justice greater credibility. As examples of military cases worth note, he mentioned NMCMR v. Carlucci and Cook v. Orser.

A recurring theme throughout the presentations echoed the twin goals of fair and efficient administration of justice, which NIMJ wholeheartedly endorses.

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