Tuesday, April 21, 2009

New Military Justice Blog

Lawyers in civil suits are able to look up past jury awards to see what a case they're considering trying is "worth." Soon military justice practitioners might have a similar resource. Thomas Hong's "This Court-Martial Sentences You To . . ." appears to be an ambitious attempt to collect and categorize court-martial sentences by forum and offense. For now it seems mostly limited to Army cases in Europe. But Hong, who has been collecting sentences since December, invites sentencing results from all services. Why? "Because it is useful info for military justice practitioners and satisfies the curious" according to the blog's own description. If you're curious, check it out here.


John O'Connor said...

This is a worthwhile effort, particularly for judge-alone guilty pleas. In most cases, sentencing evidence is pretty much the same -- the accused's mom loves him, he has the pregnant girlfried that gets issued to all pretrial confinees along with their socks and underwear.

You can more or less "Moneyball" the sentence depending on who the judge is for standard types of offenses (e.g., single spec drug use, or single spec UA, or one of each). That sort of information can help defense counsel advise their clients, and possibly could help TCs explain to a CA what sort of deal is appropriate in light of the expected sentence.

Please don't take these thoughts as endorsing (explicitly, implicitly, or by implication) the notion that the government should be required to compile this information. Just because soemthing might be useful doesn't mean the government must expend resources to provide it.

Tony Cossio said...

I am curious if it will lead to uniformity in sentencing intra-service.

Can't tell you how many times I see a Soldier get a few weeks for a drug pop and an Airman gets 5 months.

I remember when I was confined with a Awol/Drug pop. He said "tomorrow I'm gonna find out what the legal office is gonna give me".

I told him, "I'll save you the suspense....It's gonna be 9 months".

The next day he was like, "Dude, how did you know what they were going to offer me?"

Also It is very common for Judges to nail the confinement almost exactly what the PTA calls for, which I found telling.

It seems to me we already have a defacto "cookie-cutter" sentencing guidelines. Which is fine by me.

With the exception being almost anytime thier is a guilty plea you get a BCD Judge Alone, unless you are retirement eligible....Although that isn't a given, it seems the norm.

Paul said...

Tony...my experience is contrary to yours actually. I find MJs give the sentence they feel is appropriate regardless of the PTA. What I have seen is SJAs get a sense of what MJs are giving for routine offenses nd base PTA agreements on that.

Phil Cave said...

If SJA's are getting a feel for sentences that's not showing up in the PTA's they offer. Many are not close to reality.

Anonymous said...

Vast majority of SJA's, at least in my experience, have no clue what a case is worth. This often results in an accused pleading naked or possibly fully contesting the charges -- which sometimes causes a huge drain on the system. End result in findings and sentencing usually ends up being what the accused offered in the initial PTA -- or even quite a bit less.

Next case that comes along you'd think the SJA would agree to a reasonable deal. Not in my experience. Groundhog day in the PTA process and repeat the steps discussed in paragraph 1.

John O'Connor said...

Anon 1652:

That's the trial counsel's fault in my book (absent evidence of an SJA who simply won't listen).

Anonymous said...

It's good that another military justice blog has surfaced. The fact that these blogs are available to the public via the web provides information not only to practioners and those in the military but also to the public at large. In the past, I think a big part of the reason for lack of interest by the American public in military justice matters was out of sight and out of mind. Perhaps these blogs will bring more public interest to the military justice system over time. Though in my humble opinion CAAFlog is the best military justice blog. But again it's great to see more blogs on military justice matters.