Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tracking trial-level courts-martial

I have previously written about the importance of trial-level defense counsel and appellate defense counsel conducting a contact relief to transfer a client from the former's protection to the latter's. There is a cool feature on Navy Knowledge Online that might help provide part of the solution to make sure such contact relief happens. The NKO JAG page includes a link for "Navy/Marine Corps Judicial Circuit Dockets." If you go to that page, it has separate calendars for the dockets in the various Navy-Marine Corps Trial Judiciary circuits and districts. Only three of the districts -- Hawaii, Okinawa, and Yokuska (all in the Western Pacific Circuit) -- currently include any data. But the information available for those three districts is quite helpful, especially for the Hawaii district, which includes more information about each listed case than do the other two districts in the Western Pacific Circuit.

It seems that with a little further tweaking, this system could provide a cradle to grave means of tracking cases so that it will be visible to appellate defense counsel which cases qualify for appellate review, which would also allow appellate defense counsel to verify that qualifying cases actually reach NAMARA in a timely fashion. Of course, the system should also be set up to allow trial level defense counsel to ensure that their cases are docketed with the Navy-Marine Corps Court within a reasonable period after trial and CA's action.

Now if we could only further harness technology, such as by moving to electronic records of trial, we might be able to significantly reduce post-trial delay. I firmly believe that there is a technological solution.


gene fidell said...

NKO sounds great unless--like me--you cannot access it. What is baffling is that the Navy has this resource up and running, at least in part, but nonetheless signed on to the TJAGs' joint letter refusing to cooperate with NIMJ's National Court-Martial Docket Project. It cannot be Privacy Act concerns since it can hardly be the case that everyone with access to NKO has a "need to know" about dockets in other judicial circuits. I'll welcome others' thoughts on this.

Marcus Fulton said...

The Navy is working a cradle-to-grave solution, called the Court-Martial Tracking and Information System. I think it's supposed to replace Nautilus at some point. It not only tracks the progress of a case, but tracks the attorney time involved. You need a password to see into it, just like NKO. And I don't think it really reads like a docket. CMTIS is a priority with the head shed as it gives them some vis regarding how much attorney time it takes to do anything from a will in legal assistance to a contested court-martial.

Kathleen Duignan said...

There are two potential uses for any tracking database. The first is to track attorney time, as aptly pointed out by Marcus Fulton. The services have had such systems in place already for at least ten years. I know that the Coast Guard has had this kind of system in place since the early 1990's, when I dutifully entered the hours I spent on each assigned case.

But the second potential purpose for a database of cases is to easily respond to public and press requests for publicly available information (such as court dockets). In this day and age, it is possible to use the same database-driven system to allow public access to the publicly releaseable information, while retaining privacy over anything protected by law. There are ways to use the same database to publish information that should be publicly available, while password protecting the rest. It is troubling that in 2007 the services are not leveraging technology to create publicly accessible schedules of cases. This would not only enhance public confidence in the system, but would save money, time, and resources now spent on fielding the multiple telephone calls and formal written FOIA requests for this same information.