Sunday, January 06, 2008

Off we go into the wild green yonder

This Friday, the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals will hold a Project Outreach argument at the Michigan State University College of Law.

The Air Force Court will hold another Project Outreach argument at the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville (my mom's home town) on 1 February.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not sure I understand the real purpose of these outreach programs. I guess I could understand the need to take the court on the road to a military base or service academy, because that might serve some educational purpose for the troops. The value of holding an outreach at a civilian law school seems minimal. Also, does the court travel on its own dime, or does the government fund this? Seems like most outreach trips - like a recent CAAF trip to the Dakotas, the home of its then chief judge - are simply to feed the egos of the judges.

CAAFlog said...

The trips are fully funded by the United States government. One likely purpose of a CCA Project Outreach argument is recruiting. I wouldn't be at all surprised if watching a CAAF or CCA oral argument at their school led some law school students to consider becoming military lawyers.

Anonymous said...

This project not only serves the purpose of JA recruiting, but also educating the legal/law school communities. When last CAAF came to the University of San Diego, I had a conversation with one of the University provosts who was very interested in and clearly impressed with the argument.

Many civilians have a very low opinion of military justice, largely based on a lack of exposure. IMHO, it is very important to keep civilians aware of how the military works, and establishing credibility for the MJ system requires that contact.

There was a time in the not too distant past in which most Americans knew someone who had served or had served themselves. Between the demise of conscription and BRAC, fewer and fewer American have routine contacts with the armed forces. They tend to judge the MJ system on media reports, not exactly the most favorable information.

These arguments help to dispell the idea that these are kangaroo courts lacking in the most basic fairness.

Those of us who live in the distant provinces tend to appreciate these events.

Anonymous said...

Military appellate courts as recruiters? Thought the services had recruiting offices. And don't the service JAGs have officers designated for this recruiting function. And don't the service JAGs turn down more potential judge advocates than they recruit.

Military appellate courts as an educational forum for the MJ system? Anyone truly interested in how the system runs can do a google search or read a book. But frankly, an appellate court is an appellate court.

If you want to dispel any issues as to kangaroo courts, you'd be better served to take a court-martial on the road.

CAAFlog said...

I think the recruiting aspect is important in at least one respect. The original anonymous commentator raised the issue of who pays for the trips. In the case of CCA Project Outreach arguments, the money comes from the Judge Advocate General's budget. (Of course, even in the case of CAAF Project Outreaches, a portion of the money comes from the Judge Advocate General's budget since the JAG must fund the appellate government and defense counsel's travel to attend the argument.)

If a JAG wants to spend money for a CCA to go on the road with a view to helping recruiting, that strikes me as a perfectly appropriate thing for the JAG to do. And even if the various branches' legal recruiting folks are hitting their quotas, that doesn't eliminate an interest in blostering interest. As a general matter, the quality level of the average entering judge advocate will increase directly with the size of the applicant pool. So a larger applicant pool is in the services' interest because that will likely lead to overall higher quality among those who are selected and accept a commission.

John O'Connor said...

My God, they've gotten to CAAFlog. We used to be fellow travelers in our lack of enthusiasm for Project Outreach.

Anonymous said...

Personally I like outreach. I wish NMCCA would go beyond the beltway...As for education of the troops...do you really think the troops gain an education by watching an argument? Please tell me which Sailors can explain Moreno today as some watched is while off the coast of San Diego. I believe outreach is for local JAGs, law students and the community.

CAAFlog said...

EGAD! Let me make sure my position isn't misunderstood. As I have communicated in the past, I'm no fan of Project Outreach except when it results in the identification of a law student who was convicted by court-martial but failed to mention that on his law school application. My only point is that I don't see anything improper about a Judge Advocate General funding a CCA to go on the road to hear oral argument and that one likely positive effect of a JAG's decision to do so is bolstering that service's recruiting potential.

But, of course, saying there's nothing improper about doing it is a far cry from suggesting that it's desirable to do so. I've been counsel at both CCA and CAAF Project Outreach arguments. I don't like doing them because it's far easier for counsel to prepare when the argument is in D.C. I would suspect that it's also easier for the judges to prepare. Also, at one point when a CMA argument was televised, I believe that having the argument broadcast affected one CMA judge's behavior. It strikes me as possible that Project Outreach arguments might similarly tempt some judges to play to the crowd -- though I can't think of an instance in which I actually saw that danger play out. Of course, last term there was an actual instance where two CAAF judges didn't make it to a Project Outreach due to transportation difficulties. No doubt both of those judges would have been at the arguments if they had been conducted in D.C. And I believe that the deliberative process is likely to suffer to at least some incremental degree when two normally active judges don't participate in the oral argument.

So I think, but can't prove, that the end product is likely to be better in a case argued at the relevant court's own courthouse than in a distant setting. For that reason alone, I would be happy if military appellate courts would quit doing Project Outreach arugments. But if one of the Judge Advocates General wants to pay for a CCA to go on the road, I don't think that's fraud, waste, or abuse.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to ask the original anonymous poster what is the basis of their conjecture that Project Outreach's purpose is "simply to feed the egos of the judges."

DB Cooper said...

I have always assumed that the ambit of Project Outreach was twofold: (1) Drum up interest about the JAG Corps among law students (recruiting); and (2) Educating the public—who by and large (as another poster stated) are fairly ignorant of how the military justice system works. I’ve always felt that the latter goal was the more important one. After all, consider that many aspects of military jurisprudence rely, to some degree, on public perception of the fairness of the military justice system. Two immediate examples that come to mind are the appearance of UCI and implied bias for judges and panel members.
I’ve always been disturbed that far too many members of the public apparently view military justice as some kind of byzantine kangaroo court system. To see this, you only need view readers’ comments on the Washington Post online whenever it publishes a story on military justice. One would think that the average reader of the Post would be among the more reasonable and informed of our citizenry, but that instinct would be wrong. Half those people believe that the military operates a fascist justice system that employs a “guilty until proven innocent standard.” (See, e.g., reader comments on the LT Whiteside story). The other half thinks that the military is a conspiratorial body hell-bent on burying the multifarious acts of skullduggery and brutality committed by its members. (See,.e.g., reader comments on the reduced charges in the Haditha cases).
Of course, the system is not perfect, but it’s no more imperfect that civilian justice systems. And that is what I always thought Project Outreach was about. It is supposed to show one sector of the public—nascent attorneys—that the military justice system is not too different than the civilian justice system and that it affords service members due process.
Certainly, whether or not these demonstrations ultimately do any good is an open question. . . .

John O'Connor said...

Whew, I thought "they" had gotten to CAAFlog. I always valued Project Outreach as the one example of an area where CAAFlog and I agreed (or one subject on which CAAFlog was not horribly wrong (wink)).

CAAFlog said...

If improving the public reputation of the military justice system were truly the purpose of Project Outreach, then the military appellate courts have adopted an ineffective vehicle for achieving that result. After all, how many law students or faculty members actually see a Project Outreach argument? Certainly a tiny, tiny fraction of those relevant populations. CAAF's highly salutary practice of posting its oral arguments on the web actually makes its proceedings far more accessible than does a Project Outreach argument. If the public reputation angle were truly paramount, then presumably CAAF would opt to allow all of its arguments to be televised, which would reach a far broader audience than the occasional Project Outreach.

As a more effective outreach project, perhaps each of the CCAs could start by recording their arguments and posting them on the web, as CAAF does.

Anonymous said...

To educate a larger audience, the service courts could always videotape an argument and post it on youtube.

macromab said...

I think there is great value to having Project Outreach, but only if it is geared to civilian audiences, particulary law schools and colleges v. a military base or military audience.
It is crucial that the civilian community understand the current system of military justice - after all, they elect those who set up the basic framework for MJ.
Not that military members don't vote, but they know the MJ system better than the average civilian, certainly. Plus, the general military audience doesn't need Project Outreach: they aleady have their MJ outreach programs, i.e. ADC commanders calls, first-term Airmen's briefings and commander/first shirt MJ briefings.
It's also a good idea to give the next generation of civilian lawyers a clue in this respect and observing these arguments is a good way for starters.
I think these potential benefits outweigh any minimal inconvenience to counsel, who probably don't mind the occasional TDY.

DB Cooper said...

CAAFlog, I agree that televising CAAF and CCA proceedings would do a world of good. True, you’d get the occasional puffery by counsel and perhaps judges who become overly conscious of the cameras. But the benefit of educating the public about the MJ system would be better served. Does anyone know of any federal appellate courts that allow themselves to be televised?

What about televising actual courts martial? That presents a far more interesting issue. Of course, many state courts allow cameras in the courtroom. If we televised courts martial, it would certainly help to demystify them. Yet I am not hopeful that it will ever come to pass. I don’t see GCMCAs letting cameras into their courts martial, particularly since the cases likely to attract attention from the press and the public are precisely those which tend to air the command’s dirty laundry.

Anonymous said...

Some of the critical comments against Project Outreach set up the straw-man of perfection to deride the program. But why make the perfect the enemy of the good? Its the 'Blue Angels' of litigation (...with an occassional crash ?). While a universal audience is not possible, the project demonstrates a commitment towards openness. Its a reasonable program. I'm surpised by inside the beltway cynicism.

Anonymous said...

High costs, marginal benefit, especially at the CAAF level, where that court limits argument to 15 minutes a side. As a better alternative, why not have a live streaming video feed of every oral argument, both CAAF and service courts alike. That would make the appellate system more transparent.

Anonymous said...

Just curious: How many people who support the invasion of Iraq think that 'Project Outreach' is a bad idea?

(If this rather simple micro-project is bad for America - I can't see anybody supporting grand sociological projects abroad)

Any "Team-America" takers on the cognitive dissonance?