Later this week we will continue an annual tradition for the tenth year, counting down the Top Ten Military Justice Stories of 2017. But before we do that, let’s revisit last year’s list.
#10 was Ten Years of CAAFlog. September 22, 2016, was CAAFlog’s tenth birthday.
#9 was the Undead Article 10. CAAF’s unanimous decision in United States v. Cooley, 75 M.J. 247 (C.A.A.F. May. 6, 2016) (CAAFlog case page), reanimated the speedy trial right codified in Article 10. But the Article hasn’t shown any real signs of life since, as no appellant (to my knowledge) received relief under Article 10 since Cooley (the speedy trial issue in Mangahas is based on the Due Process clause of the Fifth Amendment).
#8 was the Sterling case and the Bergdahl case. These two notable cases shared a spot on our list. The Sterling case – where the contentious relationship between a Marine lance corporal (E-3) and her superiors resulted in a claim of religious freedom as justification for disobeying an order – ended when the Supreme Court denied certiorari on June 5, 2017. The Bergdahl case also ended this year when Sergeant Bergdahl elected trial by military judge alone, pleaded guilty without the benefit of a plea agreement, and received a sentence that includes a dishonorable discharge but no confinement.
#7 was the Thompson case. Marine Major Mark Thompson’s discussions with Washington Post reporter John Woodrow Cox produced an explosive 2016 feature article. In 2017 the Major pleaded guilty at a general court-martial (his second) in exchange for a chance at military retirement.
#6 was Article 6b. The nascent victims-rights provision earned a spot on our Top Ten list because of developments over the year, but the provision also had a busy 2017. You can read all of our Article 6b coverage here.
#5 was Deadlines. Missed deadlines, in particular. Two Air Force cases captured our attention, with defense deadlines missed in LaBella and a certification rejected as untimely in Williams.
#4 was Power to the CCAs! In five cases the Courts of Criminal Appeals flexed their muscles and prevailed.
#3 was United States v. Hills. CAAF’s blockbuster decision in United States v. Hills, 75 M.J. 350 (C.A.A.F. Jun. 27, 2016) (CAAFlog case page), was followed by two significant trailers in 2017: United States v. Hukill, 76 M.J. 219 (C.A.A.F. May 2, 2017) (CAAFlog case page), and United States v. Guardado, __ M.J. __ (C.A.A.F. Dec. 12, 2017) (CAAFlog case page).
#2 was Military Death Row. While the military gallows have been quiet since 1961, there were notable developments in four military capital cases in 2016.
#1 was the Military Justice Act of 2016. The most significant changes to the UCMJ since the Military Justice Act of 1983 won’t take effect for another year, are still changing, and can’t really be studied without the now-overdue implementing regulations, but they were still the biggest military justice story of the year.
We’ll start the countdown to the #1 military justice story of 2017 later this week.