April 14, 2011
The United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces held a special sitting at McGeorge on April 6, 2011, and two law students were able to participate in this special hearing.
The Armed Forces Court oversees the military justice system for all services and is composed of five civilian judges appointed for 15-year terms by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate. Opinions of the court are appealable to the Supreme Court. Chief Judge Andrew Effron presided over the hearing flanked by Judges Scott Stucky, James Baker, Chip Erdmann and Margaret Ryan.
The case that was heard, United States v. Phillips, involved the possession of child pornography charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for service-discrediting acts and whether there exists a "per se service discrediting" doctrine such that the prosecutor need not prove that element of the offense.
Military appellate counsel on each side made their arguments, but one of the highlights was an impressive oral presentation by Clayton McCarl, '12, that was based on the amicus brief that he and his wife, Lindsay McCarl, '12, prepared and filed with the Court. Their brief offered a novel approach to the issues raised on appeal.
"It was an honor for our law school to host the court," said Principal Assistant Dean Tim Naccarato. "It was an educational experience for our students to learn more about the military justice system, and the Q&A with the Court after the hearing increased their understanding."
The court normally holds its hearings in Washington, D.C., but it heard separate cases here and at the Stanford University School of Law on the following day.