Last month, three former service women and one active-duty service woman filed a federal lawsuit challenging standard military law procedure. The suit calls for the Department of Defense to halt the appointment of commanders to oversee rape and sexual assault cases originating within their own unit. The filing is the just the latest action of many looking to reform the way the military handles these cases.
The lawsuit plaintiffs, who come from the Air Force and U.S. Army, are requesting that legal officers outside the unit chain of command oversee hearings and courts-martial concerning these allegations. As it stands, commanders from the same unit as the alleged perpetrators and victims are chosen, thus, as the suit plaintiffs assert, creating a legal procedure in which the victim, the accused, and the judge and jury all know one another.
The suit plaintiffs are not alone—many within the DoD have voiced similar concerns over this system. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand from New York has also voiced her objection to the practice. The plaintiffs are represented by Attorney Susan Burke, who has a track history of representing alleged victims in similar military cases—only to see many of those cases dropped and dismissed by military officials. As Military Times reports, she hopes to make a lasting difference for future cases with this new lawsuit, which she feels there is a strong argument for.
Military Times also accompanied their report with following statistics:
- A 2014 report found that military sexual assaults rose that year, from 3,604 in 2013 to 5,983.
- Another 2014 survey found that out of 170,000 service members, roughly 20,000 experienced on incident of unwanted sexual contact.
- The previous statistic represents about 5% of all active-duty women and 1% of active duty men.
A Rapidly Changing Climate
Military Times reports that the DoD will likely ask the court not to consider the new lawsuit, but if it does, hearings could commence in as early as within six months. Regardless of the outcome, one thing remains clear: parties both within and outside of the military have taken great interest in improving this process and countering what many consider to be a military culture of silence regarding rape and sexual assault allegations.
A change in the way these charges are handled in a court-martial would also bring military law even closer to mirroring its counterpart: civilian law. As Attorney Burke puts it: "The best justice is a blind justice. We know if you are asked to sit on a [civilian] jury, you get excused if you know anybody. They [the military] are assigning someone who has an inherent bias."
If you have been accused of crime and are now facing a military court-martial, then it is time to seek knowledgeable legal counsel. Attorney Joseph L. Jordan has time and time again stood beside accused military personnel stationed all over the globe and exhausted every legal avenue in the defense of their rights. Get the same, unflagging counsel in your corner today.
Contact Joseph L. Jordan, Attorney at Law today for a free case evaluation.