Over at Jurist.org, retired Marine judge advocate Lieutenant Colonel Robert Bracknell presents a strongly-worded proposal for greater transparency in the military justice system:
Disappointingly, two simple reforms that could transform the landscape of military justice have been wholly overlooked. This is the first of a two-part series addressing each of these issues, advocating modest, affordable, easy to implement reforms that would improve transparency and public accountability for the military justice process. First, Congress must amend the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) to mandate real-time, open access to paper and electronic court-martial records. The legislation should direct open access through PACER or some other electronic online system on the same basis and availability as the records of Article III courts—without a requirement to wield the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to gain access to military judicial records. Second, Congress should mandate unrestricted access to records of attorney and judicial misconduct on the same basis as the professional standard set by most state bars and judicial codes of conduct.
Noting that “the past few years have been simply dreadful for military justice,” Lieutenant Colonel Bracknell gives examples and finds that “the anecdotes and metrics at least suggest a problem in culture, legal and command competence and ethics and senior leadership.” Along these lines he believes that “the opaqueness of the military justice system itself is one very important aspect of the wider institutional failure.” He concludes:
Improving access to information can lead to greater political and supervisory accountability for military justice decisions and outcomes and can help shape the debate regarding military justice in terms of expanding or contracting the rights of the accused, refining offenses and changing judicial procedures for greater efficiency and effectiveness.
I wholeheartedly agree, and I’ve repeatedly written about the need for greater transparency when considering issues like the appearance of bias in the certification of cases by the Judge Advocate General of the Air Force, and even the very existence of this blog.