In the ongoing case against former Taliban prisoner Sergeant Bergdahl, there have been four separate petitions for extraordinary relief. The first (discussed here) (denial noted here) sought to disqualify General Milley as the convening authority because he was asserted to be an accuser. The second (discussed here) (also denied) asserted procedural irregularities in the early handling of the case. The third (discussed here and here) sought a writ of mandamus to permit the public release of the investigation into the circumstances of Bergdahl’s capture. The fourth (discussed here) sought relief from an order prohibiting Bergdahl or his counsel from releasing that investigative report, and is particularly notable in that a companion petition was filed by multiple media organizations that seek access to the report.
Last week, in what I think is an astonishing order, CAAF dismissed the third petition:
No. 16-0059/AR. Robert B. Bergdahl, Appellant v. Peter Q. Burke, Lieutenant Colonel, AG, U.S. Army in his official capacity as Commander, Special Troops Battalion, U.S. Army Forces Command, Fort Bragg, NC, and Special Court-Martial Convening Authority, and United States, Appellees. CCA 20150624. On consideration of the writ-appeal petition for review of the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals decision on petition for a writ of mandamus, the motion on behalf of the National Institute of Military Justice for leave to file a brief as amicus curiae, the motion of the Center for Constitutional Rights to file a brief as amicus curiae, the motion of NBC News, a division of NBCUniversal Media, LLC, for leave to file a brief as amicus curiae, and Appellant’s motion for an expedited hearing, it is ordered that the motions of the National Institute of Military Justice, the Center for Constitutional Rights and NBC News to file amicus curiae briefs are hereby granted, that the writ-appeal petition is hereby dismissed, and that the motion for an expedited hearing is hereby denied as moot.
(emphasis added). CAAF’s order is what Alton Brown would describe as wafer thin, but the decision to dismiss the third petition without explanation (such as, perhaps, that the court considers it moot in light of the fourth petition), and also to dismiss it rather than deny it without prejudice (as the first and second petitions were) is really very surprising. It’s also puzzling.
Dismissal is appropriate when the court lacks jurisdiction, such as in The Center for Constitutional Rights, Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Sachill, The Nation, Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!, Chase Madar, Kevin Gosztola, Julian Assange, and Wiki[shhh] v. The United States of America and Chief Judge Colonel Denise Lind, 72 M.J. 126 (C.A.A.F. 2013) (CAAFlog case page). Notably, since CCR was decided, I’m aware of just six extraordinary writ petitions / appeals that were dismissed by CAAF:
- Wilson, No. 13-8038/AF: Dismissed “for lack of jurisdiction” on August 2, 2013;
- Forry, No. No. 13-8037/AR: Dismissed “for lack of jurisdiction” on September 23, 2013;
- [LC], No. 14-8007/NA: Appellant’s “motion to dismiss the writ-appeal petition” granted on January 15, 2014;
- Roukis, No. 15-0170/AR: Dismissed “for lack of jurisdiction” on November 18, 2014;
- Andreozzi, No. 15-0403/AR: Dismissed “for lack of jurisdiction” on March 21, 2015;
- And now Bergdahl, No. 16-0059/AR: Dismissed for no specified reason on November 23, 2015.
One of these is not like the others (and Bergdahl did not move for dismissal).