We’ve been following the litigation in Partington v. Houck, No. 1:10-cv-01962-HHK, which is pending in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.  The case challenges, among other things, the authority of the Judge Advocate General of the Navy to suspend civilian counsel from practice in naval courts-martial.  The plaintiff’s response to the defendants’ motion to dismiss in part and for summary judgment in part is now due on 11 April.

3 Responses to “Partington v. Houck update”

  1. John Harwood says:

    Mr Sullivan, is there a link for this case? I’d like to read something on this.

  2. Dwight Sullivan says:

    John, we’ve run a few pieces about the Partington case. This one is probably the most comprehensive:

    http://www.caaflog.com/2010/12/22/suspended-civil

  3. Anonymous says:

    Interesting reading the comments posted to the initial article after spending time reading the Complaint and Answer. The broader picture doesn’t look so rosey.

    First of all, it appears to me he was sanctioned for mis-statements/falsehoods in his appellate brief and not for his trial tactics. Second, it was a plea case. So while of course you can always raise jurisdictional defects, how do you plead it out when you already believe that the charges do not state an offense? How do I counsel my client to say, “yes, I believe am guilty” and then raise a motion that he’s not? Unless I have just spotted it. Regardless, he does not appear to have been sanctioned for that. As for his jurisdictional arguments, first, it appears Mr. Partington provided the trial court with his notice of appearance wherein he stated both that he would abide by all RCMs/MREs, and JAG INST 5803.1. He then went on to state that he was certified under Article 27(b) as a retired Army JAG officer. Seems to me, whether or not the JAG has permission to impose sanctions against civilians who practice, he has probably waived the right challenge it after voluntarily submitting to them under oath or if 27(b) applies, then he is by definition subject to the TJAG’s auhtority. Second, even if he has not waived his right to challenge the TJAG’s jusridiction, RCM 109(a) states specifically that each TJAG is responsible for professional supervision and discipline of judges, JAGS, “and other lawyers who practice in the proceedings governed by the (UCMJ) and (MCM).” The commentary notes that “the rule also applies to civilian lawyers so engaged, as did its predecessor.” If the TJAG can’t supervise and discipline attorneys practicing his his/her court, then who should? Should the highest State or Federal Court under which counsel is admitted rule on Courts-Martial ethics rules? Really? Even as a DC, I don’t think I want that. Frankly, as I didn’t practice under them as a JAG, I didn’t really know them anyway. Why should civs be under an entirely different set of rules (and 50-100 potentially varying sets if you count all jurisdictions). Finally, I’m not sure I understand the conflict of interest argument regarding the IO. From looking at the pleadings, I don’ think he was the TSO CO when this case happened. Anyway, the IO ultimately only makes recommendations and can take no action. The Navy Rules Counsel then reviews and makes recommendations to the TJAG. And the TJAG can only remove the civilian counsel’s right to practice his his/her service courts and proceedings. Seems to me it would be a stronger COI argument if it were the CO of a TSO invesigating actions of a JAG DC at NLSO. Especially when the TJAG, DJAG, NLSO CO/XO/DH could take many more actions (some very subtle, like mediocre fitreps) against the DC. I hate sounding like gvt counsel (really hate it) on this but I don’t get it.