Friday, January 18, 2008

CAAF supports the attorney-client relationship -- and motherhood

I have previously noted that CAAF seems to be taking a keen interest in the attorney-client relationship this term. Among other actions, CAAF has specified issues scrutinizing the division of authority between attorney and client, United States v. Larson, __ M.J. ___, No. 07-0263/AF (C.A.A.F. Nov. 29, 2007) (order), provided two opportunities for the Air Force Court to quit listing lawyers as counsel for appellant unless the lawyers had actually entered an appearance in the case, United States v. Roach, __ M.J. ___, No. 07-0870/AF (C.A.A.F. Nov. 21, 2007) (summary disposition), and denied the government's attempt to sever an attorney-client relationship between an Air Force appellant and his government-provided civilian attorney (moi). United States v. Miller, __ M.J. ___, No. 07-5004/AF (C.A.A.F. Jan. 7, 2008) (order).

Today CAAF once again protected the attorney-client relationship, in a subtle but laudable manner. My colleague Capt Tiaundra Sorrell is the appellate defense counsel in United States v. Perez, No. 08-5002/AF. She is also great with child. CAAF recently scheduled oral argument in the Perez case for 12 March. That was problematic, because if all goes well, Capt Sorrell will be nursing a new-born by 12 March. So Capt Sorrell filed a motion asking CAAF to move her oral argument up. Today it did, adding the Perez case to the schedule for 5 February. As a result, Senior Airman Perez will be represented at CAAF by the lawyer with whom he has an established attorney-client relationship. This term may be shaping up as the Year of the Attorney-Client Relationship.


John O'Connor said...

On rare occasions when my six-year-old deigns to follow my instructions, she sometimes loudly and immediately announces her willingness to do what I said (no doubt for ulterior motive) and then makes eye contact as if she should get some special praise for taking the extraordinary step of, for once, doing as I had asked.

That's sort of how I feel here. Is our system of justice so broken that there was some possibility that CAAF would tell an accused's assigned appellate counsel to either withdraw or give birth during oral argument, and that we ought to heap praise on CAAF for doing what any humane court would? It's like the Chris Rock bit where he talks about guys who proudly announce "I take CARE of my kids," like, no kidding, that's what you're supposed to do.

CAAFlog said...


My guess would be that if we could perform a controlled experiment and move to expedite oral argument at the various geographic federal courts of appeals and state appellate courts on the grounds of imminent birth of a child, an appreciable number of those courts would say no. Of course, we can't perform such a controlled experiment, so we'll never know. But I still give CAAF kudos for protecting the attorney-client relationship.

John O'Connor said...

In a criminal case, I would have little regard for a court that wouldn't move argument either up or back so that the accused's chosen appellate defense counsel could present argument at a time reasonably removed from her due date.

In the civil context, let's just say I've heard lots of judges say, when being told of a scheduling conflict, "well, that's a pretty big firm you're at there, right?"