MILITARY JUSTICE PERSONNEL: Staff Judge Advocate: Pretrial Advice

2020 (October Term)

United States v. Chandler, 80 M.J. 425 (in this case, where trial counsel inserted into the PTA the provision that appellant was required to enter into a reasonable stipulation of fact, the SJA, as legal advisor to the convening authority, was empowered to advise the convening authority regarding whether this condition of the PTA was met; in this regard, it was not inappropriate for the SJA to directly call and inform defense counsel that he would advise the convening authority not to accept the PTA unless appellant agreed to stipulate to the multiple uses of cocaine and marijuana reflected in his confession, especially where trial counsel and the defense paralegal were part of this conversation and trial and defense counsel still had the ability to decide how to handle the stipulation at trial and in presentencing proceedings; the SJA’s pretrial actions did not transform him into a trial counsel, and thus, did not disqualify him under Article 6(c) from advising the convening authority on post-trial matters).

(where a reasonable stipulation of fact is an explicit term of a PTA between the accused and the convening authority, the content of that stipulation directly concerns the SJA in his role as legal advisor to the convening authority, and convening authorities acting upon the advice of their s\SJAs may very well determine a pretrial agreement should not be entered into because the stipulation offered by the accused is not reasonable). 

(an SJA may be disqualified if he or she has a personal interest or feeling in the outcome of a particular case; however, in this case, the fact that the SJA sought the inclusion of appellant's confession in the stipulation does not demonstrate a personal rather than a professional interest in the case). 



United States v. Dowty, 60 MJ 163 (because the unorthodox method to obtain the panel pool of court-martial members by soliciting volunteers was so unusual and potentially affected the appearance of fairness of the panel, it was a matter about which the assistant staff judge advocate should have advised the convening authority before he selected the members).

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