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 caseMarine 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.

4 Responses to “Revisiting the Top Ten Military Justice Stories of 2016”

  1. k fischer says:

    Nascent: (especially of a process or organization) just coming into existence and beginning to display signs of future potential.  For those of you who already knew this, please disregard and carry on.

  2. Joonka says:

    Having been an avid Caaflog reader for years an a non attorney, I believe one important 
    development has slipped under the radar of the military justice practitioners in 2017.
    Perhaps for the first time a federal appeals court ruled that the MCM cannot create new offenses as the presidents power to create new offenses  via the MCM is “cabined by the constitution’s separation of powers doctrine” As such the offenses created by the MCM cannot supplant the codified offenses of the UCMJ, since only congress can create offenses and court martial offenses are federal offenses which necessarily makes them creatures of federal codes.
    As the court noted, the MCM can only be used as sentence enhancers which is the intent of Congress delegation to president the authority to determine sentences for offenese approved by congress.
    Finally the opinion also addresses the military general sentencing scheme which it claims cannot be used to ascertain what constitutes a one year sentence since the military does not apportion sentences for convictions with multiple offenses. Thus the conflict should be resolved in favor of appellants. I find this to be a quite interesting development .
    See Chavez-Alvarez v. United States US Court of Appeals 3rd circ March 2017

  3. Concerned Defender says:

    It’s 2017, not 2016.  Soon to be 2018… :)
    Also, just this past week, 3 overturned murder convictions for 3 Army Soldiers wrongly convicted in part due to Brady violations.  State prosecutors withheld material evidence of a police report and another suspect in a drive by shooting murder.   These Soldiers served 25 years each on a murder they didn’t commit.
    Suggest fitting this very significant 3 case decision in here.  

  4. D. A. Higley says:

    Congratulations on your 10th year anniversary. The entire judge advocate community owes you a huge debt of gratitude. Keep up your exemplary work. Your insight is invaluable.
    Semper fi,