CAAFlog » October 2017 Term » United States v. Pugh

CAAF decided the interlocutory Air Force case of United States v. Pugh, __ M.J. __, No. 17-0306/AF (CAAFlog case page) (link to slip op.), on November 7, 2017. Reviewing the blanket prohibition on consuming hemp products in Air Force instruction 90-507, paragraph 1.1.6., a unanimous CAAF finds that while the prohibition “may have a valid military purpose, it is overly, and inappropriately, broad as it pertains to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved food products.” Slip op. at 2. The Air Force CCA’s decision is reversed and the military judge’s ruling dismissing the charge is reinstated, with prejudice.

Judge Sparks writes for the unanimous court.

A general court-martial composed of officer members convicted Major (O-4) Pugh of:

willful dereliction of duty in violation of Article 92, UCMJ, 10 U.S.C. § 892, by consuming Strong and Kind bars, a product containing hemp seeds, which is prohibited by AFI 90-507.

United States v. Pugh, No. 2016-11, slip op. at 2 (A.F. Ct. Crim. App. Mar. 10, 2017) (discussed here). Pugh was acquitted of a separate allegation of wrongful use of marijuana. The members sentenced Pugh to be dismissed.

After the findings were announced, the defense moved to dismiss the specification asserting that AFI 90-507 is unlawful. The military judge reserved ruling, but ultimately granted the motion and then denied a prosecution motion for reconsideration. The Government appealed to the CCA, which reversed the military judge’s dismissal. CAAF then granted review of a single issue:

Whether the military judge erred in finding that AFI 90-507 serves no valid military purpose and dismissing the additional charge and its specification.

Today’s opinion is short and fact-specific, with Judge Sparks explaining that “banning legal, properly labeled food products well regulated by the United States government under the guise of protecting airmen from unlabeled, unregulated, illegal food products is well beyond the Government’s stated purpose for the ban.” Slip op. at 5.

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Audio of today’s oral arguments at CAAF is available at the following links:

United States v. Mangahas, No. 17-0434/AF (CAAFlog case page): Oral argument audio.

United States v. Pugh, No. 17-0306/AF (CAAFlog case page): Oral argument audio.

CAAF will end its first week of oral arguments in the 2017 term on Wednesday, October 11, 2017, when it hears argument in the interlocutory Air Force case of United States v. Pugh, No. 17-0306/AF (CAAFlog case page). Pugh is a particularly interesting case because it is an interlocutory appeal of a ruling dismissing a charge after the members returned findings of guilty and a sentence. CAAF granted review of a single issue:

Whether the military judge erred in finding that AFI 90-507 serves no valid military purpose and dismissing the additional charge and its specification.

A general court-martial composed of officer members convicted Major Pugh of:

willful dereliction of duty in violation of Article 92, UCMJ, 10 U.S.C. § 892, by consuming Strong and Kind bars, a product containing hemp seeds, which is prohibited by AFI 90-507.

United States v. Pugh, No. 2016-11, slip op. at 2 (Mar. 10, 2017) (discussed here). AFI 90-507 is the Military Drug Demand Reduction Program order. It prohibits, among other things, consumption of any product containing hemp seed or hemp seed oil.

Defense counsel moved to dismiss after findings, arguing that the specification failed to state an offense and that the order was unlawful. The military judge reserved ruling. The members then sentenced Pugh to a dismissal and the court-martial was adjourned. Nineteen days later the military judge granted the motion to dismiss, concluding that “there is not a sufficient nexus between military necessity and the duty AFI 90-507 seeks to impose. The regulation is overly broad and serves no valid military purpose.” Slip op. at 3.

The prosecution appealed and the Air Force CCA reversed, finding that “it was error for the military judge to conclude that there was an insufficient nexus between the military duty and the integrity and effectiveness of the drug testing program.” Slip op. at 6. Pugh then petitioned CAAF for review.

Pugh’s reply brief include this nice summary of the issue:

The parties agree that the military duty in question is the necessity to protect the reliability and integrity of the drug testing program. App. Br. at 6; Govt. Br. at 20. Thus, the question for this Court is whether banning legally available commercial food products sold in the United States is reasonably necessary to protect the reliability and integrity of the drug testing program. See Para. 14c(2)(a), Part IV, MCM (2012 ed.) (regulation of activities reasonably necessary to accomplish a military mission) (emphasis added).

Reply. Br. at 6.

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Back in March the Air Force CCA granted a Government appeal under Article 62 in United States v. Pugh, No. 2016-11 (Mar. 10, 2017) (link to slip op.). The case involves an Air Force major who was convicted of:

willful dereliction of duty in violation of Article 92, UCMJ, 10 U.S.C. § 892, by consuming Strong and Kind bars, a product containing hemp seeds, which is prohibited by AFI 90-507.

Slip op. at 2. AFI 90-507 (available here) (link corrected) is the Military Drug Demand Reduction Program order. It prohibits, among other things, consumption of any product containing hemp seed or hemp seed oil.

Defense counsel moved to dismiss after findings, arguing that the specification failed to state an offense and that the order was unlawful. The military judge reserved ruling. The members then sentenced the Major to a dismissal and the court-martial was adjourned. Nineteen days later:

the military judge granted the defense motion to dismiss the Additional Charge and its Specification. In so doing, he issued a six-page ruling. The military judge concluded that the specification did allege an offense and gave fair notice to Appellee. However, the military judge then held that “there is not a sufficient nexus between military necessity and the duty AFI 90-507 seeks to impose. The regulation is overly broad and serves no valid military purpose.” The military judge then dismissed the Additional Charge and its Specification.

Slip op. at 2-3. The military judge had the power to do this because the record had not yet been authenticated. See R.C.M. 905(f).

The prosecution appealed and the Air Force CCA reversed, concluding:

As the military judge found, as fact, that it was possible that a “false positive” could result from manufacturing process defects, purchase of hemp products overseas, or purchase of hemp products over the Internet, it was error for the military judge to conclude that there was an insufficient nexus between the military duty and the integrity and effectiveness of the drug testing program. Military jurisprudence has long recognized the “disastrous effects” of illicit drug use by members of the armed forces. Similarly, the critical nature of the drug testing program in the “military’s efforts to ferret out drug abuse and thereby insure [sic] the health and readiness of its members” as well as deter drug abuse is also well-established.

Slip op. at 6 (citations omitted) (marks in original) (emphasis added).

Yesterday CAAF granted review:

No. 17-0306/AF. U.S. v. Joseph A. Pugh. CCA 2016-11. On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals, it is ordered that the petition is hereby granted on the following issue:

WHETHER THE MILITARY JUDGE ERRED IN FINDING THAT AFI 90-507 SERVES NO VALID MILITARY PURPOSE AND DISMISSING THE ADDITIONAL CHARGE AND ITS SPECIFICATION.

Although ordinarily an appeal pursuant to Article 62, Uniform Code of Military Justice, 10 U.S.C. § 862 (2012), does not require additional pleadings, because the granted issue differs from the assigned issue, additional briefing is necessary. See CAAF Rules 19(a)(7)(A) and 25. Accordingly, Appellant’s brief on this issue shall be filed within 20 days of the date of this order. Appellee’s brief shall be filed within 20 days of the filing of Appellant’s brief. A reply may be filed by Appellant within 5 days of Appellee’s brief. Absence extraordinary circumstances, extensions of time to file the briefs will not be granted.