On Tuesday, November 17, 2020, CAAF will hear oral arguments in United States v. Guinn. The issue on review is:
WHETHER THE ARMY COURT CONDUCTED A VALID ARTICLE 66 REVIEW WHEN IT FAILED TO CONSIDER APPELLANT’S FIRST AND FIFTH AMENDMENT CLAIMS EVEN WHILE ENTERTAINING HIS EIGHTH AMENDMENT CLAIMS.
CAAF briefs here.
Staff Sergeant Michael J. Guinn was convicted, contrary to his pleas, of one specification of sexual assault of a child under the age of twelve in violation of Article 120b, UCMJ. The military judge sentenced Appellant to four years confinement, a reprimand, and a dishonorable discharge.
Customarily, we would address the facts underlying Appellant’s findings and sentence, however, here it is unnecessary. The underlying facts are irrelevant because this appeal is strictly about the role of ACCA under Article 66.
On appeal, Appellant asserted First, Fifth, and Eighth Amendment claims, however, ACCA only entertained Appellant’s Eighth Amendment claim. After reviewing Appellant’s case, ACCA affirmed Appellant’s findings and sentence. Appellant then asked ACCA to reconsider, they accepted, but still did not address Appellant’s First and Fifth Amendment claims. ACCA declined to review Appellant’s First and Fifth Amendment claims based off of their holding in United States v. Jessie, where they found that Article III courts are better positioned to address First and Fifth Amendment claims.
The Defense Appellate Division (DAD) puts forth a brief that can only be described in one word, strong. On appeal, the argument is simple, ACCA abused its discretion when they chose to not review Appellant’s First and Fifth Amendment claims. Appellant’s counsel makes compelling arguments, particularly, the fact that both DAD and the Government Appellate Division (GAD) agree that Appellant has no other avenue for meaningful relief, other than ACCA. This point is made by citing the Feres Doctrine, and White, where CAAF stated that military prisoners do not have a civil remedy for alleged constitutional violations. While this argument alone is persuasive and compelling, it is Appellant’s second argument. Appellant’s first argument is that his due process rights were violated when ACCA refused to address his First and Fifth Amendment Claims. In this argument, DAD outlines how ACCA’s failure to review Appellant’s claims is contradictory to the military court system set up by Congress. Additionally, DAD argues that ACCA’s refusal to review Appellant’s claims resulted in him not receiving an “adequate and effective” opportunity for relief. Overall, DAD puts forth a strong argument that ACCA should have reviewed Appellant’s First and Fifth Amendment claims.
On the other side of the coin, GAD draws a distinction between Appellant’s Eight Amendment claim, and his First and Fifth Amendment claims. The difference, Eighth Amendment and Article 55 claims, have been found by CAAF to be legal deficiencies, whereas First and Fifth Amendment claims have not been. Interestingly, GAD asks CAAF to continue to grant ACCA and other service courts discretion in which cases to hear, and to not force them to take cases that they have said they are ill-suited for. However, GAD does acknowledge that precedent exists for service courts to review administrative prison policies that do not fall within the Eighth Amendment, but that no requirement that they do so exists. In addition to those arguments, GAD compares Appellant’s case to Avila, where CAAF granted no relief, stating that “Appellant complains of routine conditions associated with the strictures of confinement and not of a legal deficiency in his sentence.” In GAD’s final arguments, they argue that military courts are the wrong forum for Appellant’s complaints because he is asking for injunctive relief from a prison administrative policy, and that any sentence relief for his complaints would be “absurd.” Overall, GAD asks CAAF to keep the power of review in the hands of the service courts, and they state strong reasons for their position.
Is this a simple assignment of error to answer? No. Both sides put forward compelling arguments that address the real issue, what the role of the courts should be.
The Feres Doctrine prohibits lawsuits by military prisoners against the federal government.
Elizabeth M. Berecin
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