15 December 2009

Congressional members weigh in on SEALs case; suspected terrorist has more procedural due process rights than the Navy SEALs who captured him

Last Thursday several Members of Congress sent a letter to Army Major General Charles T. Cleveland, who is the Commander of Special Operations Command at the U.S. Central Command, regarding the prosecutions of Navy SEALs Matthew McCabe, Jonathan Keefe and Julio Huertas. The letter can be found here.

The three Navy SEALs have been charged with alleged abuse of a suspected terrorist, Ahmed Hashim Abed, after they captured him. Abed has been largely identified as the mastermind of a horrific attack in March 2004, in Fallujah Iraq, where four American civilian contractors were ambushed and killed and their bodies hung over the Euphrates River.

If the three SEALs are found guilty by special courts-martial, and are sentenced to a subjurisdictional sentence (which is confinement of less than one year and no punitive discharge), they have no right to appeal in any military appellate court or the Supreme Court. Conversely, the suspected terrorist Abed has an absolute right to access American courts regardless of any sentence imposed if he is found guilty. Earlier this year the Cox Commission recommended, in a report, that Congress amend the law to permit all contested courts-martial the right to appeal in the military appellate courts as a matter of a right regardless of sentence.

The case has been discussed over on CAAFlog here, here and here. (I've also made a comment to one of those posts.)

It would be an absolute disgrace, and contrary to democratic principles of procedural due process, if these Navy SEALs are found guilty and cannot appeal a conviction to the military appellate courts whilst the alleged terrorist they captured and brought to justice has a free ride in our American court system. Our brave servicemembers and the American public certainly deserve better. Congress should take swift action to correct the procedural due process flaw.

13 December 2009

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (on holiday) . . .

This week in Parliament posts will be on holiday until January 2010. The next This week in Parliament will be posted on 10 January 2010 for the week of 11 January.

This week in Congress (is on holiday) . . .

This week in Congress posts will be on holiday until January 2010. The next This week in Congress will be posted on 10 January 2010 for the week of 11 January.

12 December 2009

Army - Navy Game Day! GO NAVY, BEAT ARMY!

Well it's Sunday here in Australia (which is Saturday back in the States), and I've been up since 0600: Army - Navy Game Day! (One Sport's channel is broadcasting the game live down under.)

GO NAVY!

09 December 2009

Lengthy discussion on detainees' rights trumps bill markup on American troops access to the Supreme Court in House Judiciary Committee

Today a resolution, H.Res. 920, which was previously introduced by House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), regarding detainees at Guantanamo Bay trumped discussions on the Equal Justice for Our Military Act of 2009, H.R. 569.

H.R. 569 was due to be marked-up today by the full House Judiciary Committee but because there was a long discussion -- two-hours-plus -- on H.Res 920, H.R. 569 has been held over to the next markup, which will be in January 2010.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers had issued a memorandum on Monday to all members of the Judiciary Committee concerning three bills which were due to be marked-up today. The memo, which can be found here, discusses H.R. 569 (at pages 9 - 14).

This memo also includes a manager's amendment, which passed by voice vote in a markup in June by the Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy, regarding a technical amendment to section 2, and an effective date.

08 December 2009

American Bar Association sends letter to House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers supporting HR 569 on eve of markup

The American Bar Association this evening sent a letter to Chairman John Conyers of the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary, which was copied to all committee members, strongly supporting the enactment of the Equal Justice for Our Military Act of 2009, H.R. 569. A copy of the letter can be found over on CAAFlog here.

H.R. 569 will be marked-up tomorrow morning by the full committee. A link to the live web cast of the markup, which will start at 1000 hours (U.S. Eastern Time), can be found here.

07 December 2009

This week in Congress (7 Dec 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress:

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

House Committee on the Judiciary, markup on the Equal Justice for Our Military Act of 2009, H.R. 569, 1000 hours, 2138 Rayburn House Office Building. The committee web site's hearing page is located here. The markup will be available for viewing live via a web cast here at 1000 hours (U.S. Eastern Standard Time). This blog has discussed the bill here and here. CAAFlog has also provided past highlights of a subcommittee hearing conducted in June which can be found here.
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For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

06 December 2009

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (7 Dec 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

Parliament is in recess until after the New Year. There are various Committee meetings occurring but none involve military justice or veterans issues.

The following military justice and veterans cases are occurring this week:

High Court of Australia

The High Court is sitting on 11 December 2009 in Sydney and Melbourne with a video link to Hobart in order to hear special leave applications; none of the applications concern military justice or veterans issues. The lists of cases with special leave applications can be found here and here.

Federal Court of Australia (Full Court)

There are no military justice or veterans cases being argued this week in the Federal Court of Australia (Full Court).

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The Tribunal sits on 10 December 2009. We have an email into the Tribunal requesting a list of cases to be argued. When we receive a response this post will be updated.

Veterans' Review Board


For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.

02 December 2009

H.R. 569 moved over to next markup

H.R. 569, the Equal Justice for Our Military Act of 2009, was not marked up today by the House Judiciary Committee because the first two bills (there were four bills to receive markup) took up a significant amount of time. H.R. 569, along with the other bill H.R. 3180 - Discount Pricing Consumer Protection Act of 2009 - have now been moved over to the next markup, which will be next week.

30 November 2009

Equal Justice for Our Military Act slated for markup by full House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday

[UPDATED] On Wednesday, 2 December 2009, the full U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary will markup the Equal Justice for Our Military Act of 2009, H.R. 569 according to House Judiciary counsel Eric Garduno and the Committee web site's hearing page here. The markup will be available for viewing live via a web cast here at 1015 hours (U.S. Eastern Standard Time).

In July the Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy of the House Judiciary favorably reported H.R. 569 out to the full Committee. I've previously discussed that here.

Over on CAAFlog, Dwight Sullivan, has previously discussed highlights of the Subcommittee hearing which took place back in June. Mr. Sullivan's post can be found here. Mr. Sullivan also testified in support of H.R. 569 and his opening statement can be found here.

Retired Major General Altenburg, U.S. Army, testified against the bill. His opening statement can be found here.

The bill enjoys broad support from military veterans groups and legal advocacy associations. The supporters include the American Bar Association, Fleet Reserve Association, Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, Military Officers Association of America, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and National Institute of Military Justice. Three former chief judges of the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces have also supported H.R. 569, Judges Walter Cox III and Eugene Sullivan, and the late Robinson Everett.

I've been told by contacts on the Hill that within a week or two after Wednesday's markup an official Congressional report will be issued on H.R. 569.

This week in Congress (30 Nov 2009) . . .

[UPDATED] The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress:

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, hearing on U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care Funding: Appropriations to Programs, 1000 hours, 334 Cannon House Office Building. A live web cast can be viewed here.

House Committee on the Judiciary, markup on the Equal Justice for Our Military Act of 2009, H.R. 569, 1015 hours, 2138 Rayburn House Office Building. The committee web site's hearing page is located here. The markup will be available for viewing live via a web cast here at 1015 hours (U.S. Eastern Standard Time). This blog has discussed the bill here and here. CAAFlog has also provided past highlights of a subcommittee hearing conducted in June which can be found here.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Subcommittee Economic Opportunity, hearing on Education Roundtable, 1300 hours, 334 Cannon House Office Building. It will be web cast live here.
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For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

29 November 2009

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (30 Nov 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

The House and Senate are sitting this week. There are no military or veterans matters that are scheduled to be debated on the floor of either the House or Senate or any Parliamentary Committee.

The following military justice and veterans cases are occurring this week:

High Court of Australia

The High Court is sitting on 1 December 2009 in Canberra; none of the cases being argued concern military justice or veterans issues.

Federal Court of Australia (Full Court)

There are no military justice or veterans cases being argued this week in the Federal Court of Australia (Full Court).

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The Tribunal next sits on 10 December 2009.

Veterans' Review Board


For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.

23 November 2009

This week in Congress (23 Nov 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress:

Congress is in recess this week.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

(Since I'm home in Sydney for T-day, I'm subjecting my Australian side of the family to an American Thanksgiving.)

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For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

22 November 2009

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (23 Nov 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

The House and Senate are sitting this week. There are no military or veterans matters that are scheduled to be debated on the floor of either the House or Senate.

The following is going on this week in Parliamentary Committees:

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Joint House-Senate Public Accounts and Audit Committee, Review of Auditor-General's Reports Nos. 32 (2008/09 to 1 (2009/10) (Audit Report No. 48 deals with Defence projects), 1145 hours, Committee Room 2R2, Parliament House, Canberra. There are four separate submissions from the Australian National Audit Office submissions which can be found here.

The following military justice and veterans cases are occurring this week:

High Court of Australia

The High Court is not sitting this week. It will next sit on 1 December 2009 in Canberra.

Federal Court of Australia (Full Court)

There are no military justice or veterans cases being argued this week in the Federal Court of Australia (Full Court).

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The Tribunal next sits on 10 December 2009.

Veterans' Review Board


For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.

16 November 2009

This week in Congress (16 Nov 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress:

Monday, 16 November 2009

The Senate Floor resumes its debate on the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriation Bill FY 2010, H.R. 3082, at 1400 hours.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, hearing on Easing the Burdens through Employment, 0930 hours, 418 Russell Senate Office Building.

Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, hearing on Accountability for Foreign Contractors: The Lieutenant Colonel Dominic "Rocky" Baragona Justice for American Heroes Harmed by Contractors Act, 1430 hours, 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Subcommittee on Health, hearing on Review of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Contract Health Care: Project HERO, 1000 hours, 334 Cannon House Office Building. It will be web cast live here.

Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, hearing on The Forthood Attack: A Preliminary Assessment, 1000 hours, 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

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For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

15 November 2009

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (16 Nov 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

The House and Senate are sitting this week. There are no military or veterans matters that are scheduled to be debated on the floor of either the House or Senate.

The following is going on this week in Parliamentary Committees:

Monday, 16 November 2009


Joint House-Senate Public Accounts and Audit Committee, Review of Auditor-General's Reports Nos. 32 (2008/09 to 1 (2009/10) (Audit Report No. 48 deals with Defence projects), 0945 hours, Committee Room 2R2, Parliament House, Canberra. (The hearing will also continue on Wednesday.) The Australian National Audit Office submissions can be found here.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Joint House-Senate Public Accounts and Audit Committee, Review of Auditor-General's Reports Nos. 32 (2008/09 to 1 (2009/10) (Audit Report No. 48 deals with Defence projects), 1145 hours, Committee Room 2R2, Parliament House, Canberra. The Australian National Audit Office submissions can be found here.

The following military justice and veterans cases are occurring this week:

High Court of Australia

The High Court is not sitting this week. It will next sit on 1 December 2009 in Canberra.

Federal Court of Australia (Full Court)

Friday, 20 November 2009

Smith v. Commonwealth of Australia [2009] FCA 684 (24 June 2009), VID516/2009, Full Court hearing. The case involves the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 (Cth) s30C - "double dipping" - entitlement to pension for war-caused injury - payment in settlement of common law action in negligence - whether both payments in respect of incapacity from the same injury is double dipping - whether s30C is applicable to the facts of the case.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The Tribunal next sits on 10 December 2009.

Veterans' Review Board


For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.

13 November 2009

Proposed U.S. Senate amendment to guarantee Supreme Court access for troops will not move forward due to a procedural flaw

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif) proposed SAmdt 2766 will not move forward because of a procedural flaw with the proposed amendment. That type of amendment cannot be tacked onto an appropriations bill under Senate rules. SAmdt 2766 had been proposed on Monday by Senator Feinstein.

The proposed amendment was to get the Equal Justice for United States Military Personnel Act of 2009, S. 357, placed in as an amendment to the FY 2010 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriation Bill, H.R. 3082 on SAmdt 2730 by Senator Tim Johnson (D-S.D.). Today Senator Johnson's Legislative Director informed me that proposed SAmdt 2766 wasn't going to be added due to the procedural flaw.

The Equal Justice for Our Military Act of 2009, H.R. 569 is still pending in the House of Representatives. Sources on the Hill have indicated that it is expected to have a full House Judiciary Committee markup next month.

10 November 2009

BREAKING NEWS: Senator Feinstein trying to have S. 357 accepted as an Amendment to the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriation Bill

[UPDATED] Yesterday U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) proposed S.Amdt. 2766 in order to get the Equal Justice for United States Military Personnel Act of 2009, S. 357, placed in as an amendment to the FY 2010 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriation Bill, H.R. 3082, which will continue to be debated on Monday, 16 November at 1400 hours when the Senate resumes its business.

Here is the relevant page of the Congressional Record showing the language of S.Amdt 2766. It is identical language to S. 357.

08 November 2009

This week in Congress (9 Nov 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress:

No military justice or veterans matters will be heard by Congressional committees this week.
____________________

For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (9 Nov 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

The House and Senate next sit on 16 November 2009.

The following is going on this week in Parliamentary Committees:

Monday, 9 November 2009


Joint House-Senate Public Works Committee, Inquiry into the Proposed Construction and Renovation of Housing for Defence at Larrakeyah Barracks, Darwin, Northern Territory, 1030 hours, Parliament House, The Dining Room, Mitchell Street, Darwin, NT. Submission can be found here.

The following military justice and veterans cases are occurring this week:

High Court of Australia

The High Court is sitting in Canberra this week but there are no cases that involve military justice or veterans issues being argued.

Federal Court of Australia (Full Court)

There are no military justice or veterans cases being argued this week.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The Tribunal next sits on 10 December 2009.

Veterans' Review Board


For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.

05 November 2009

November = less frequent blogging month

For both Nick and I, free time to blog this month has been chock-a-block and that is likely to continue for the rest of November. I've been very busy in Australia with the RSL and also in the United States lobbying for the passage of H.R. 569. Nick is studying for law school finals. Thus there will be less blogging this month. We expect a return to the normal blogging frequency in December.

We will continue our weekly posts of This week in Parliament; and This week in Congress despite our busy schedules.

02 November 2009

This week in Congress (2 Nov 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress:

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, VA and Indian Health Service Cooperation, 1000 hours, 418 Russell Senate Office Building.
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For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

01 November 2009

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (2 November 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

The House and Senate next sit on 16 November 2009.

The following is going on this week in Parliamentary Committees:

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Joint House-Senate Public Works Committee, Inquiry into Enhanced Land Force Stage 2 Facilities, 1315 hours, Gaythorne RSL, 534 Samford Rd., Mitchelton, QLD. (The hearing will be on the Gallipoli Barracks, Enoggera, Queensland and other Defence bases and training areas around Australia.)

The following military justice and veterans cases are occurring this week:

High Court of Australia

The High Court is sitting in Canberra this week but there are no cases that involve military justice or veterans issues being argued.

Federal Court of Australia (Full Court)

There are no military justice or veterans cases being argued this week.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The Tribunal next sits on 10 December 2009.

Veterans' Review Board


For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.

25 October 2009

This week in Congress (26 Oct 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress:

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Markup of Pending Legislation (it's not clear which pending legislation will receive the markup), 1000 hours, 340 Cannon House Office Building. The hearing will be web cast live here.
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For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (26 October 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

Both the House and Senate are sitting this week.

The following is going on this week in Parliamentary Committees:

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee, hearing on Access to Justice, 1600 - 2200 hours, Committee Room 2S1, Parliament House. [It will be web cast live here.]

The following military justice and veterans cases are occurring this week:

High Court of Australia

High Court next sits in Canberra on 3 November 2009.

Federal Court of Australia (Full Court)

There are no military justice or veterans cases being argued this week.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The Tribunal was scheduled to sit on 29 and 30 October 2009; however, there are no cases that will be argued this week according to an email received by the Deputy Registrar of the Tribunal. The next sitting will be on 10 and 11 December 2009.

Veterans' Review Board


For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.

21 October 2009

Senator Johnston: Australian Navy went overboard on sex betting book allegations

Today the The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting here that the Royal Australian Navy knew within days that claims of sailors on board the HMAS Success having a sex betting book and competitions were false but didn't inform the public and media.

Yesterday Senator David Johnston (Liberal - WA), the Shadow Minister for Defence, issued a press release, which can be found here, said "there is absolutely no grounds, no truth in these claims and yet Mr. Rudd and Ms. Gillard as well as the Chief of Navy dammed these sailors as guilty before proven innocent by remarking on the case in the media."

Today Senator Johnston plans to persue the matter with the Chief of the Australian Defence Force Angus Houston duing the Senate Estimates hearing. "These men love being in the Navy and they love their jobs and this whole sorry business has illustrated that Defence has a long way to go in the administration of military justice," said Senator Johnston.

The RAN has yet to make a comment regarding the accusations made by Senator Johnston. This blog has previously discussed the sex betting allegations here and here.

20 October 2009

Royal Australian Air Force takes action on special forces disability allowance

Today the Royal Australian Air Force announced it was taking action to resolve the Special Forces Disability Allowance ("SFDA") issue as quickly as possible. Recently, business rules guiding how the SFDA would be applied were still under development and some confusion at a number of levels as to actual entitlements led to incorrect application of the SDFA to Squadron Special Tactics Flight personnel.

Shadow Minister for Defence Science, Personnel and Assisting Shadow Minister for Defence Bob Baldwin, MP (Liberal - Patterson, NSW) issued a press release, which can be found here.

"ADF personnel do not want, and certainly don't deserve, another Minister who follows in the footsteps of the former Minister of Defence, Joel Fitzgibbon," said Baldwin. "I want to know how much each member of 4 Squadron RAAF is owed, I want to know when they will be payed and I want to know why such a situation has been allowed to develop once more," Badwin said.

Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Mark Binskin, has directed resolution of the SFDA payment be undertaken as a priority. For further information the RAAF has issued a press release here.

19 October 2009

Commanding Officers to inform Chiefs on results of retirement board

Back in August I discussed the U.S. Navy's retirement board here - which is the first time in more than a decade the Navy has convened such a board. Today the Navy Times reports here that nearly 6,000 Navy chief, senior chiefs and master chiefs will find out this week whether they're in or out. The military newspaper also indicates that the Navy will not release the names of those chiefs who are forced to retire.

Cox Commission II Report on American military justice system released

Today the Cox Commission II Report was released. It can be found here.

There are seven recommendations: (1) Expand appeals to the Courts of Criminal Appeals ("CCA") and the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ("CAAF") to make appellate review a matter of right; (2) Enact the Equal Justice for Our Military Act of 2009, H.R. 569; (3) Permitting accused to waive their appellate rights in pre-trial agreements; (4) Improvement in access for defense for expert assistance during case investigation and traial; (5) Prohibit prosecutors from attacking the credentials of an expert witness if the government provided that specific expert to the defense as an adequate substantite for an expert requested by the defense; (6) require military law enforcement agencies to videotape custodial interrogations; and (7) repeal Uniform Code of Military Justice article 125 (10 U.S.C. 925)

Over on CAAFlog, Dwight Sullivan discusses the report here, and Mike "No Man" Navarre posts here.

I do applaud the Cox Commission II especially for recommendations (1), (2) and (7). However, I tend to agree with Mr. Navarre's post, in that I was expecting more given all the hype.

After reading the entire report and the appendix items, I'm left wanting more; especially on whether or not to eliminate the CCAs; whether or not to elevate CAAF to an Article III court and it sitting in panels as all other Federal Courts of Appeal; the equal protections issue of servicemembers being tried by military judges in the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force who do not have fixed terms of office whilst the Army and Coast Guard appoint their military trial and appellate judges to fixed terms of office; the increased trend in use of Correctional Custody Units in non-judicial punishments; and unlawful command influence within the military justice system and whether or not to give prosecutors more discretion as opposed to the convening authorities.

Ideally the House or Senate Armed Services Committees should be conducting a comprehensive review on the entire UCMJ. Congress has not done a comprehensive review since 1983/84 - more than 25 years ago. Alternatively, Congress should appoint a Congressionally sanctioned commission with the ability to take sworn testimony and give it subpoena power. Given the past patterns of lawmakers in Congress I do not believe any of that will happen.

Then again does the average American civilian citizen really care about how we treat our troops?

New blogger added to Equal Justice for Troops blog

Today Equal Justice for Troops blog has added a new blogger: Nick Wiesener, who is an Australian Army veteran and is presently in law school. He will be blogging on issues related to Australian military justice and veterans matters. Nick lives in Sydney (Bondi Beach) and is from Orange, New South Wales. He is also a member of the Returned & Services League of Australia at North Bondi RSL Sub-Branch (Tobruk House).

The blog welcomes Nick!

18 October 2009

Sexual abuser of Army cadet was already on parole; former cadet now wants other victims to come forward

The Sydney Morning Herald reports here today that Andrew Dean McIntosh, a former volunteer officer of cadets at Barker College, a private school in Hornsby which is on Sydney's north shore, sexually assaulted a boy cadet at a camp whilst still on parole for similar offences.

The college's solicitor, Tunc Ozen, told Judge Michael Finnane that the school didn't know of the previous conviction and his parole status because at the time schools had not been legally required to carry out criminal background checks on employees.

The victim, who is now 34, is seeking other victims to come forward.

My thoughts on this:

Even though this took place prior to the criminal background check requirement, one has to ask why he was still permitted to work with children upon his conviction for similar offences? That should have most certainly been a condition of his parole. And why hadn't the parole officer been checking up on him? Seems like a flaw in the legal system to me
.

The Attorney General of New South Wales should take a hard look at this case. We need to protect our children from this predatory behaviour.

Queen to consider posthumous pardon for Breaker Morant and two others for incident during the Boer War more than 100 years ago

Today The Age reports here that an independent legal review of the cases of Army Lieutenants Harry Harbord "Breaker" Morant, Peter Handcock and George Ramsdale Witton casts serious doubt on the fairness of their court-martial convictions. The review found their court-martial unsafe and unjust. Navy Commander James Unkles, who is an experienced prosecutor, found at least 10 legal grounds to justify a pardon.

This week in Congress (19 October 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress:

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Hearing on Pending Legislation (it's not clear on exactly what pending legislation), 0930 hours, 418 Russell.

House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, markup on H.R. 761 - Interment in National Cemeteries of Parents of Certain Deceased Veterans H.R. 3485 - Veterans Pensions Protection Act and Pending Legislation, 1000 hours, 340 Cannon House Office Building. (Here is a link on Thomas for H.R. 761 and H.R. 3485) The hearing will be web cast live here.

Thursday, 22 October 2009


House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Subcommittee on Health, markup on H.R. 2504 - Increase in Amount Authorized to be Appropriated for Comprehensive Service Programs for Homeless Veterans, H.R. 2559 - Help Our Homeless Veterans Act, H.R. 2735 - To Make Certain Improvements to the Comprehensive Service Programs for Homeless Veterans, H.R. 3796 - Improve Per Diem Grant Payments for Organizations Assisting Homeless Veterans, H.R. 3073 - Direct Secretary of Veterans Affairs Establish A Grant to Provide Assistance to Veterans Who Are At Risk of Becoming Homeless, and Pending Legislation, 1000 hours, 334 Cannon House Office Building. (Here is a link on Thomas for H.R. 2504, H.R. 2559, H.R. 2735, H.R. 3796, and H.R. 3073.) The hearing will be web cast live here.

For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (19 October 2009) . . .

[UPDATED] The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

The House is in session this week. However, the Senate will next meet on 26 October 2009.

The following is going on this week in Parliamentary Committees:

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee, 2009-10 Supplementary Budget Estimates (Defence & Veterans), 0900 hours, Committee Room 2S1, Parliament House. [It will be web cast live here.]

The following military justice and veterans cases are occurring this week:

High Court of Australia

High Court next sits in Canberra on 3 November 2009.

Federal Court of Australia (Full Court)

There are no military justice or veterans cases being argued this week.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The Tribunal is in recess and will next sit on 29 and 30 October 2009.

Veterans' Review Board


For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.

15 October 2009

Amendments to Manual for Courts-Martial to be considered

CAAFlog reports here, thanks to Court-Martial Trial Practice blog, that the U.S. Department of Defense's Joint Services Committee on Military Justice will hold a public hearing on 29 October 2009 at 1030 hours, 1501 Wilson Blvd., 8th Floor, Rosslyn, Virginia 22209 concerning amendments to the Manual for Courts-Martial. Here is a link to the announcement in the Federal Register. The hearing's subject matter includes child pornography offense under Uniform Code of Military Justice, or UCMJ, article 134 -- the offense could carry up to ten years' brig time and a dishonorable discharge.

13 October 2009

Second Cox Commission report to be released on 19 October 2009

According to the calendar of the National Institute of Military Justice, which can be found here the Cox Commission will release its second report on Monday, 19 October 2009. I have previously discussed the Cox Commission here, here (my recommendations to the Commission) and here.

11 October 2009

"Good Grief Camp" helps military kids cope

Today the San Diego Union Tribune reports here that a program called "Good Grief Camp" run by Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS, is holding regular weekend seminars around the nation to assist children of military servicemembers cope with a parent's suicide. Last year, the UT reports that, 140 Army soldiers and 42 Marines took their own lives.

For more information here is a link to TAPS' web site and here is a link to the web page on the "Good Grief Camp."

This week in Congress (12 October 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress:

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

House Judiciary Committee, markup on the Wartime Treatment Study Act, H.R. 1425, 1015 hours, 2141 Rayburn House Office Building. (Here is a link on Thomas for H.R. 1425.) The hearing will be web cast live here.


Thursday, 15 October 2009


House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, hearing on U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Status Report on Post-9/11 GI Bill, 1400 hours, 334 Cannon House Office Building

* There may be a markup on the Equal Justice for Our Military Act of 2009, HR 569 this week by the full House Judiciary Committee. Once a formal announcement is made I'll update this post.
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For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

10 October 2009

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (12 October 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

The House of Representatives will next sit on 19 October 2009.

The Senate will next meet on 26 October 2009.

The following is going on this week in Parliamentary Committees:

Monday, 12 October 2009

Public Work Committee (Joint), Construction of Housing for Defence on Gordon Estate at McDowell, 1030 hours, Kenron Wavell Services Club, Inc., Hamilton Road, Chermside, QLD.

The following military justice and veterans cases are occurring this week:

High Court of Australia

There are no military justice or veterans cases being argued this week.

Federal Court of Australia (Full Court)

There are no military justice or veterans cases being argued this week.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The Tribunal is in recess and will next sit on 29 and 30 October 2009.

Veterans' Review Board


For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.

09 October 2009

Aussie VA supports World Mental Health Day by making services available for veteran community

On the eve of World Mental Health Day, Minister for Veterans Affairs Alan Griffin (ALP, Bruce, VIC) encouraged members of the veteran community to seek appropriate help for mental issues.

"Some veterans and their family members experience mental health problems as a result of their service. I urge any veteran or veterans' family member who wants more information about improving their mental health to contact the Veterans and Veterans Families Counseling Service on 1800 011 046," said Griffin.

"Even if you are dealing with my Department on compensation or other matters, don't wait to address your mental health issues. VVCS is free, confidential and responsive service that can provide you with the support you need when you need it most." "Almost 50,000 veterans have a mental illness such as PTSD and related conditions is very close to the hearts of those in the ex-service community," Griffin said.

For further information Griffin's press release can be found here.

08 October 2009

America's enemies continue to have greater court access than U.S. troops under NDAA

This evening visiting Yale Law Professor Eugene R. Fidell posted on the Balkinization here that unlawful enemy combatants of the United States will continue to enjoy greater access to America's courts than that of U.S. servicemembers under the conference version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, H.R. 2647. A Thomas link to H.R. 2647 is here.

It's nice to know that lawmakers in Washington are more concerned about the due process rights of unlawful enemy combatants than that of U.S. servicemembers. (Obviously, I'm being extremely sarcastic.)

It's high time that Congress focus on the due process rights of those U.S. citizens that serve in uniform to protect and defend our democratic way of life. Congress should swiftly pass either H.R. 569 or S. 357.

07 October 2009

U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs seeking assistance of nation's financial institutions in cashing emergency educational payments

I've previously discussed the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs issuing advanced educational benefit payments to veteran-students here. The VA is now soliciting the support of local and national banks to honor and cash these emergency checks written to veteran-students. A VA press release indicates that in many cases the checks are handwritten and could pose concerns of fraud from banks. Therefore, VA has established the following special customer service call-in numbers for banks to verify the validity of any US Bank check brought to them by a veteran. The number is 1-800-827-2166.

06 October 2009

U.S. House Judiciary Committee to markup military medical accountability bill

The U.S. House Judiciary Committee announced today that it will markup the Carmelo Rodriguez Military Medical Accountability Act of 2009, H.R. 1478, tomorrow at 1330 hours (U.S. Eastern Time), in 2141 Rayburn House Office Building. The markup will be available on a live webcast here.

H.R. 1478 would amend the Federal Tort Claims Act to permit claims for damages brought against the Government for personal injury or death of a member of the U.S. Armed Forces arising from negligence or a wrongful act or omission in the performance of medical, dental, or related health care functions which are provided by a person acting within the scope of their employment or at the direction of the Government within the United States.

The bill, if passed, would also make it inapplicable to any claim arising out of the combatant activities of U.S. Armed Forces during time of armed conflict.

04 October 2009

This week in Congress (5 October 2009) . . .

[UPDATED] The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress:

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

House Judiciary Committee, markups on the Carmelo Rodriguez Military Medical Accountability Act of 2009, H.R. 1478 and Wartime Treatment Study Act, H.R. 1425, 1330 hours, 2141 Rayburn House Office Building. (Here are links on Thomas for H.R. 1478 and H.R. 1425.)

House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, hearing on Implications of the Department of Veterans Affairs' PTSD Rule-Making, 1400 hours, 334 Cannon House Office Building

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, hearing on Veteran Affairs/Department of Defense Response to Certain Military Exposures, 0930 hours, SD-562

House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, hearing on H.R. 761, H.R. 2243, H.R. 3485, H.R. 3544, and Draft Legislation, 1000 hours, 334 Cannon House Office Building

House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, Markup on Pending Legislation, 1300 hours, 334 Cannon House Office Building.

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For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (5 October 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

There are no scheduled hearings in Parliament this week concerning military justice or veterans affairs issues.

The following military justice and veterans cases are occurring this week:

High Court of Australia

There are no military justice or veterans cases being argued this week.

Federal Court of Australia (Full Court)

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Sleep v. Repatriation Commission, [2009] FCA 472, VID516/2009, dismissal of rate of service pension appeal. Today's proceedings: Directions.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The Tribunal is in recess and will next sit on 29 and 30 October 2009.

Veterans' Review Board


For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.

02 October 2009

Minister of Veterans' Affairs makes statement on Rex Crane fraud allegations

Today Australian Veterans' Affairs Minister Alan Griffin (ALP-Bruce, VIC) made a statement concerning this morning's Sydney Morning Herald article on Rex Crane and allegations that he was not a Prisoner of War or even served in the military. The SMH article can be found here. Later in the morning the SMH ran a second article online which can be found here.

"Personally, I think for anyone to impersonate a prisoner of war is disgusting. It is a betrayal of all values our veterans stand for," said Griffin.

On Thursday the VA referred the matter to the Australian Federal Police for investigation as Crane has been receiving the highest level of service pension since 1988 for claiming he was a POW captured by the Japanese in 1942 at the age of 15 and imprisoned in Singapore's Outram Road jail, the SMH reported today. SMH also reported that Crane lived in Adelaide throughout World War II and never spent a day in a military uniform.

Crane was serving as the federal president of the Prisoners of War Association of Australia. He has also collected over $380,000 (AUD) from the Government in a pension over the years and was permitted to have a VA Gold Card for all medical expenses according to the SMH.

Griffin's statement can be found here.

01 October 2009

Australian Defence Force seeking feedback on military justice system

Today the Australian Defence Force announced it is seeking feedback on the military justice system. The Inspector General of the ADF has commissioned a questionnaire which aims to improve problem areas. The feedback opportunity is open to anyone who has been involved in any capacity in:
  • a Defence Force Discipline matter;
  • the discipline officer scheme;
  • a redress of grievance, or
  • an unacceptable behavior complaint.
Any comments made will be treated in confidence. To participate in the feedback questionnaire go here.

ADF also indicated that the Government is now preparing a permanent judicial solution in which serious service offences will be tried by a court which meets the requirements of Chapter III of the Constitution. In August the High Court of Australia declared recent reforms that established the Australian Military Court in the Defence Force Discipline Act 1982, to be invalid.

28 September 2009

This week in Congress (28 Sep 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress:

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, VA Contracts for Health Services, 0930 hours, Russell Senate Office Building, Room 418.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Subcommittee on Health, Markup on H.R. 1017, H.R. 1036, H.R. 2504, HR. 2559, H.R. 2735, H.R. 3073, H.R. 3441, and Draft Discussion on Homelessness and Graduate Psychology Education, 1000 hours, 334 Cannon House Office Building.

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For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

27 September 2009

U.S. Navy to permit women to serve in submarines

The San Diego Union Tribune reports here that the Navy is preparing to integrate women into submarines. Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operation issued a statement here.

Other countries sea going services already permit women to serve on submarines, including my other home country of Australia, Norway and Sweden. Women make up approximately 15 percent of the American Navy's officers and enlisted personnel. The U.S. Navy also bans women from serving in its special forces known as the Navy Sea, Air, and Land Forces or SEALs.

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (28 Sep 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

There are no scheduled hearings in Parliament this week concerning military justice or veterans affairs issues. However, that may change due to the media attention given to the Breeanna Till military pay/compensation problems which I discuss here.

The following military justice and veterans cases are occurring this week:

High Court of Australia

The full High Court is in recess this week.

Federal Court of Australia (Full Court)

There are no military justice or veterans cases being argued this week before the full court.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The Tribunal is in recess and will next sit on 29 and 30 October 2009.

Veterans' Review Board


For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.

American Constitution Society to hold panel discussion on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy

On Tuesday, 29 September 2009, the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy will hold a panel discussion on the "Don't Tell, Don't Ask" policy that prohibits gays and lesbians from serving openly in America's military. The discussion will take place at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. at 1200 hours. For further information go here.

26 September 2009

Defence Chief and Veterans Affairs Minister take action in case of war widow: Military compensation to be reviewed

Today national attention has been brought to the inadequate financial circumstances of Breeanna Till whose husband, Australian Army Sergeant Brett Till, was killed in Afghanistan earlier this year when he was attempting to disarm a bomb. Till is being paid a compensation payment of $305 per week. Which is far different from her husband's $905 a week pay. Till raised the concerns during a public hearing of a review of the military compensation system. I have previously discussed the review of the system here.

Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said in a statement issued a statement today that Defence policy is to provide Defence housing for the dependents of an Australian Defence Force member killed in action for six months. "Given the particular circumstance of this case, I have decided to extend this out to 18 months - to September 2010," said Houston.

Till has also been waiting for reimbursement on equipment her late husband had purchased before he was deployed to Afghanistan. But Houston said he and the Army chain-of-command had not bee aware until today that Till was waiting for reimbursement. "I was unaware of this issue, however, I give an undertaking to Mrs. Till that we will reimburse her for equipment expeditiously. Houston press statement can be found here.

The Australian Associated Press reports here that VA Minister Alan Griffin (ALP-Bruce, Vic.) has ordered his department to examine Till's case.

VA Secretary orders emergency checks to veterans awaiting educational benefits

Yesterday Secretary of U.S. Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki announced the Veterans Affairs Department authorized checks for up to $3,000 to be given to students who have applied for educational benefits and who have not yet received their government payment. The checks are due to be distributed starting on 2 October 2009.

Students can go to one of the VA's 57 regional benefit offices starting on Friday with a photo identification and a course schedule to request advance payment of their education benefits. Because not all these offices are located near students. VA expects to send representatives to schools with large veteran-student bodies and work with veteran service organizations to help students with transportation needs.

A list of VA offices is available here. For further information the VA's press release can be found here.

23 September 2009

High Court permits military compensation appeal to proceed

Today the High Court of Australia in Fellowes v. Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission [2009] HCA 38, set aside a lower court ruling dismissing an enlisted Australian Army man's appeal of a compensation claim under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988.

The High Court held that where "an injury to an employee results in a permanent impairment," respondent is liable to pay compensation "in respect of the injury." The amount of the compensation is fixed by the degree of permanent impairment resulting from the injury as assessed under the Guide to the Assessment fo the Degree of Permanent Impairment.

Justice Susan Kiefel dissented with the majority and opined that she would award no amount of compensation and dismiss the appeal.

When I have a chance I'll write more on the decision. (Most likely after the New South Wales Labour Day holiday - week of 5 October.)

20 September 2009

This week in Congress (21 Sep 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress:

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Subcommittee on Health, Is the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Meeting the Pharmaceutical Needs of Veterans? An Examination of the VA National Formulary, Issues of Patient Safety, and Management of the Pharmacy Benefits Program, 1400 hours, 334 Cannon House Office Building.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, Honoring the Fallen: How Can We Better Serve America's Veterans and Their Families? 1000 hours, 334 Cannon House Office Building.

House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, Markup on H.R. 294, H.R. 1169, H.R. 1182, HR. 2416, H.R. 2491, H.R. 2614, H.R. 2696, H.R. 2874, H.R. 2928, H.R. 3223, H.R. 3554, H.R. 3561, H.R. 3577 and Draft Legislation, 1300 hours, 332 Cannon House Office Building.

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For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (21 Sept 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

There are no scheduled hearings in Parliament this week concerning military justice or veterans affairs issues.

The following military justice and veterans cases are occurring this week:

High Court of Australia

The full High Court sits on 22 September, in Canberra, but there are no cases being heard involving military justice or veterans issues.

Federal Court of Australia (Full Court)

There are no military justice or veterans cases being argued this week before the full court.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The Tribunal is in recess and will next sit on 29 and 30 October 2009.

Veterans' Review Board


For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.

19 September 2009

Inspector General of Veterans Affairs releases report of healthcare inspection

On Thursday the Inspector General, or IG, of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs released a 17 page report, "Healthcare Inspection: Follow-up Colonoscope Reprocessing at VA Medical Facilities" which can be found here. I have previously discussed bungled endoscopy procedures at American VA medical facilities here after a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee held a hearing this past June.

The IG performed 128 surprise inspections of various facilities throughout the nation. All the medical facilities were in compliance of following correct procedures. These new findings by the IG are a stark contrast compared to past inspections which found more than half of the facilities to be non-compliant.

Yesterday the VA issued this statement in where Acting Under Secretary for Health Dr. Gerald M. Cross said it has been the "VA's top priority to provide the highest quality of care to the Veterans of this Nation." "This report shows VA's unparalleled quality assurance programs indentified a resk and successfully corrected that risk on a national scale," said Cross.

There is a toll-free nationwide information line at 1-877-345-8555 available to patients and their families.

14 September 2009

Australian Parliament passes interim military justice system

After several hours of floor debate this evening, the Australian House of Representatives voted to pass the Military Justice (Interim Measures) Bill (No. 1) 2009 and Military Justice (Interim Measures) Bill (No. 2) 2009 which are now on their way to Royal assent. Last week the Senate had passed both bills a day after their introduction.

Passage of the two bills now provides Australia with an interim military justice system after the High Court struck down the Australian Military Court, or AMC, as unconstitutional last month in Lane v. Morrison. The AMC had been created in 2007 as a result of sweeping military justice reforms in Australia. But the Howard Government ignored a 2005 Senate report as well as 2006 recommendations from various lawmakers when it created the AMC.

The interim system reverts back to the courts-martial system while lawmakers draft legislation to constitute an independent Chapter III constitutional court for the military. Under the interim bills, servicicemembers' civilian rights will not be affected should any member be convicted by courts-martial. There will be no civil disabilities and the conviction will be confined to solely the military life.

The AMC was a half-breed court similar to an Article I United States Court but didn't have full protections of a Chapter III court (which are similar to Article III U.S. courts). The High Court, in Lane, rejected the adoption of the AMC half-breed-legislative-created court.

During this evening's most fascinating debate, House lawmakers were concerned with the old court-martial system being unfair and flawed especially in relation to the disparity of treatment between enlisted and officers. (I'm having deja vu on the American system and a 2002 U.S. News & World Report article which can be found here.) It has previously been shown that Aussie enlisted personnel are disciplined much more severely than officers who commit an identical offence. Under the previous system, which will now become an interim system, most officers didn't face any court-martial whilst an enlisted personnel would face court-martial and harsh penalties if convicted.

Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Support Michael Kelly (ALP-Eden-Monaro, NSW), a retired Army colonel who also served as a military lawyer, spoke on the House floor about the former court-martial system being just a transitional arrangement while the government drafted a new system. Kelly, to stress the need for a more permanent impartial and independent system, told Members about a story of an Army officer who he had served with, and witnessed, assault another officer but that officer wasn't court-martialed. He indicated it would have been different if it had been an enlisted man.

Peter Lindsay (Liberal-Herbert, QLD) indicated that he supported the interim solution but stressed that "it would have been better to have been debating a permanent solution in the best interests of the ADF and the wider community tonight rather than a temporary solution."

Defence Minister, Senator John Faulkner (ALP-NSW), issued a press release this evening in which he indicates that "the Government is now preparing a permanent judicial solution in which serious offences will be tried by a court which meets the requirements of Chapter III of the Constitution. The move to a Chapter III court will be considered in close consultation with the Attorney-General."

I've previously written about the interim bills and the Lane case here, here and here. When tonight's House debate transcript is available I'll update this post.

13 September 2009

BREAKING NEWS: Australian House of Representatives to debate Senate-passed military justice bill today

This evening (Australian Eastern Time), the Australian House of Representatives will hold debate and vote on the Senate-passed Military Justice (Interim Measures) Bill (No. 1) 2009 and Military Justice (Interim Measures) Bill (No. 2) 2009 following consideration of three other bills. For further information go here. My prediction is that the House will consider it about 1730 hours Australian Eastern Time (0330 US Eastern Time and 0030 US Pacific Time). Here are links to video and audio web casts of today's debate: high resolution video, low resolution video and audio. All my contacts in Canberra tell me that this bill will have smooth sailing through the House and be on its way to Royal Assent.

Rudd Government addresses safety issues of cadmium in Collins Class submarines

Today, Australian Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science Greg Combet (ALP-Charlton, NSW), announced an update on the situation regarding cadmium in the Collins class submarines.

Cadmium, a chemical element (symbol "Cd" and atomic number 48), is a soft, bluish-white transition metal and is mainly used in batteries. It has been used in Collins Class submarines since their 1990 inception in the Royal Australian Navy.

"From the time that this issue arose, the Rudd Government acted immediately with Defence and the Navy to identify the source and extent of any hazard, and to ensure the safety and well being of the maintenance workers and submariners who have been working on the Collins Class submarines," said Mr. Combet in a press release here.

"The Government has been concerned to maintain confidence in the operation of the Collins Class Submarines and the safety of Navy personnel. As has been publicly reported, staff of ASC, the prime contractor for maintence of the Collins Class submarines, raised conserns about cadmium contamination while undertaking maintenance of submarines," said Combet.

Inhalation of cadmium containing fumes is toxic and can result in metal fume fever, which are flu-like symptoms. Further it could progress into chemical pneumonia, pulmonary edema and possible death. The health and safety risk to Navy personnel is through inhalation of cadmium dust or vapour through airborne contamination. Defence indicates that the risk to personnel is mitigated through the use of areas of infrequent access, warning signs and good hygiene practices.

Combet indicated that "all six of the Collins Class submarines have now been tested for airborne contamination. This testing revealed that airborne cadmium levels within the Collins Class submarines are well below the Australian standard."

Earlier this month Chief of RAN, Vice Admiral Russell H. Crane, issued a service-wide message to RAN personnel concerning media reports on cadmium in submarines. Crane's message can be found here.

The Rudd Government indicates that allegations by the Opposition of an alleged failure to follow safety procedures and place warning signs on the submarines are unfounded. "Cadmium has been present in components on the Collins Class submarines since their inception, and Defence safe handling procedures have been in place throughout," said Combet.

Operation Life: Australian VA to conduct suicide prevention workshops

The Australian Veterans' Affairs Department has announced workshops to prevent suicide. The locations and dates for Safe Talk workshops are: St. Helens, Tasmania 21 September 2009, Gosford, New South Wales 6 November 2009, and Dubbo, New South Wales (date to be determined but it will be sometime in mid February 2010). The location and date for ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) is: Maroochydore, Queensland 1 - 2 October 2009.

For further information go here. Veterans who require immediate counseling assistance should ring toll free 1-800-011-046

VA provides project funding in excess of $1.2 million for Aussie veteran health and wellbeing

Earlier this month Minister for Veterans' Affairs Alan Griffin (ALP - Bruce, VIC) announced funding of more than $1.2 million to support 78 health and wellbeing initiatives for veterans and their families across Australia.

"I'm pleased to announce that more than $1.2 million (AUD) has been allocated in this round of the Veteran & Community Grants program. The Funding will benefit some 26,000 veterans, war widows and widowers and their families by supporting a range of initiatives including health, nutrition and exercise sessions," said Griffin in a press release.

Veteran and community grants are available to ex-service and community organisations, veteran representative groups and private organisations that contribute to the health and welfare of the veteran community. The VA provides a website to visit for further information here.

This week in Congress (14 Sep 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress:

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Subcommittee on Oversight and Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia, Security Clearance Reform: Moving Forward on Modernization, 1430 hours, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 342. Witnesses: Hon. Jeffrey D. Zients, OMB; Hon. John Berry, Office of Personnel Management; Hon. James R. Clapper, Jr., Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence; David R. Shedd, ODNI; Brenda S. Farrell, GAO.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Veterans Court Roundtable, 1000 hours, 334 Cannon House Office Building

________________________

For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (14 Sep 2009) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

Monday, 14 September 2009


House of Representatives, hold debate and vote on the Senate-passed Military Justice (Interim Measures) Bill (No. 1) 2009 and Military Justice (Interim Measures) Bill (No. 2) 2009 following consideration of three bills. For further information go here. My prediction is that the House will consider it about 1730 hours Australian Eastern Time. Here are links to video and audio web casts of today's debate: high resolution video, low resolution video and audio.

The following military justice and veterans cases are occurring this week:

High Court of Australia

The full High Court does not sit this week. It will next sit in Canberra on 22 September 2009.

Federal Court of Australia (Full Court)

There are no military justice or veterans cases being argued this week before the full court.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The Tribunal is in recess and will next sit on 29 and 30 October 2009.

10 September 2009

Australian Senate passes interim military justice bills; American lawmakers should heed important lesson from down under

Today the Australian Senate passed the Military Justice (Interim Measures) Bill (No. 1) 2009 and Military Justice (Interim Measures) Bill (No. 2) 2009. Both bills will now head to the lower house for approval.

Last month the High Court held, in Lane v. Morrsion, that the Australian Military Court, or AMC, established in 2007 was unconstitutional. The two interim bills revert the military justice system back to the court-martial system. But Defence Minister, Senator John Faulkner (ALP-NSW), emphasised on the Senate floor that the bills were "interim measures only." "Until the government can legislate for a Chatper III court, which I can say to the Senate, it will do as a matter of priority," said Faulkner.

Opposition Defence Minister, Senator David Johnson (Liberal-WA), who served as defence minister in the Howard Government when the AMC was first established, noted on the Senate floor that in 2006 "a number of senators said to the [Howard] government, said to the department [of defence] . . . this will not work." "We put them on notice that this was problematic, you can not have judicial powers unless you adopt them pursuant to the Australian Constitution. But no, as is common, the defence force knew better . . . the parliament was ignored and here we are today," said Johnson.

Johnsons comments on the Senate floor were in reference to the 2005 Senate report on military justice which can be found here and a later 2006 Senate recommendation which suggested that the AMC be created as a Chapter III court. But the defence department had lobbied against a Chapter III court and critical recommendations of senators were ignored. Thus creating the current problem.

U.S. lawmakers, in relation to the American military justice, and any reforms, should heed a critical lesson from mistakes of Australian lawmakers . . . it's not always wise to just listen to the defense department when you are reforming the system.

For example, the Pentagon, under the Bush administration, had lobbied two separate Congresses against the enactment of the Equal Justice for Our Military Act bills -- which would grant American troops equal access to the highest court within the United States in review of courts-martial. During the G.W. Bush years, whilst the Pentagon was lobbying against the bills, the American Congress saw fit to grant its enemies more procedural due process rights -- when it past the Military Commission Act of 2006 -- in accessing the Supreme Court of the United States than a serviceman or servicewoman who is defending the United States.

Australia teaches us an important lesson; that it's not always wise to solely listen to your defence department concerning basic due process protections for your citizens especially those citizens who serve in uniform to protect and defend you.