Saturday, June 23, 2007

After the 8-course CAAFeteria meal, an ACCA dessert

ACCA released two published opinions on Friday. In United States v. Christy, __ M.J. ___, No. ARMY 20050291 (A. Ct. Crim. App. June 22, 2007), ACCA "address[e] what appears to be a matter of first impression before this court": "whether appellant's use of LimeWire peer-to-peer file-sharing software to search for and download child pornography files from other LimeWire users, while allowing other users to search for and download child pornography from him, constitutes 'distribution' of child pornography." Id., slip op. at 2. ACCA's unsurprising answer is, Yes. "We hold that 'sharing' child pornography files using peer-to-peer file-sharing software constitutes 'distribution' of child pornography within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(2), and affirm the findings of guilty and the sentence." Id. This issue calls to mind Judge Baker's timely observation from Friday's Leedy opinion that "[c]hild pornography is not new, but its proliferation on the Internet is a recent phenomenon raising new, and in some cases challenging, questions of law." United States v. Leedy, __ M.J. ___, No. 06-0567/AF, slip op. at 21 (C.A.A.F. June 22, 2007).

ACCA's other Friday opinion is weird. ACCA goes out of its way to raise an issue, not grant relief, sua sponte reconsider that issue, still not grant relief, but publish the resulting five page opinion. Why? United States v. Moralez, __ M.J. ___, No. Army 20060123 (A. Ct. Crim. App. June 22, 2007), focuses on "a common and recurring problem in the Army: misinterpretation of the rules governing deferment and waiver of forfeitures." Id., slip op. at 2. The point of the opinion is to emphasize that "all parties in the court-martial process must understand deferment and waiver concepts and how to apply them in different factual settings. Although we affirm the findings of guilty and the sentence in appellant's case, we write to reinforce military justice practitioners' professional responsibility to recognize and properly apply Congressionally-created deferment and waiver rules on a case-by-case basis." Id.

Here's a question. I'm honestly not trying to suggest an answer; I'm just asking: is that a proper purpose for a judicial opinion? Or should the Moralez opinion have been a "View from the Bench" Army Lawyer piece instead? What do you all think?

1 comment:

Sacramentum said...

I'm with you -- publish it in the Army Lawyer.

Years ago, pre-internet and blogging, I heard a rumor that the CCAs like to publish any case in which they reverse even if it is based on a well-established principle of law -- to show the public there actually are such cases and to bring to the practitioners' attention the error that caused the reversal. But to publish this opinion seems a little much, especially because there are so many better ways of getting the message to practitioners.