Sunday, July 27, 2008

Military justice: still the Rodney Dangerfield of legal systems

In their book America (The Book) , Jon Stewart et al., provide a handy wire diagram of "America's Court System." John Stewart et al., America (The Book) 84-85 (2004). In the diagram, immediately below the Supreme Court is a wire that leads to "U.S. Court of Military Appeals," with the explanation: "For soldiers who got nowhere else to go . . . who got nowhere else to go!!!" Below that box, a wire leads to "Courts of Military Review," with the explanation: "This is the JAG one." (And while not relevant to the point of this post but still amusing, below that box is a wire leading to "U.S. Court of Veterans Affairs," with the explanation: "Looking for the world's most depressing court experience? You've found it.")

Now at the time America (The Book) was published, CAAF hadn't been CMA for a decade; nor had the CCAs been CMRs for a decade. So while perhaps it's surprising that the wire diagram included the military justice system's appellate courts at all, their inclusion with obsolete names was a rather backhanded compliment.

Once, when being upbraided by a bow tie wearing pundit for allegedly posing softball questions to a Democratic candidate for President, Jon Stewart famously replied: "I didn't realize that . . . news organizations look to Comedy Central for their cues on integrity. . . . The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls."

So just as journalists shouldn't look to the Daily Show as a role model for journalistic ethics, we probably shouldn't look to the Daily Show's writers to learn about America's court system. So where might we look? How about, say, the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts? Or maybe not. As our beloved JO'C called to my attention at a ridiculously early hour this morning (JO'C -- I can only hope that you were still up from Saturday night and not up already on Sunday morning), the Administrative Office of Court's web page called "About U.S. Federal Courts" informs the American people: "Congress has created several Article I or legislative courts that do not have full judicial power. Article I courts are U.S. Court of Military Appeals, U.S. Tax Court, and U.S. Court of Veterans' Appeals were established under Article I of the Constitution." Reading that over again, it's not only obsolete, but also syntactically mangled. Maybe I'm better off consulting America (The Book)'s wire diagram after all.


John O'Connor said...

Ridiculously early hour? By 7:19 this morning, I had been up for more than an hour. Chalk it up to seven-year-old who realizes her best chance to watch decent cartoons is to appeal to Dad's sensibilities (if any) before Mom wakes up.

Anonymous said...

This all illistrates how worthless it was to change the names of the courts. One can make a change to an orginization without changing the name.