GPSolo Magazine - January February 2005
National Security and Military Law in a Nutshell
By Charles A. Shanor and L. Lynn Hogue
The Thomson West publication National Security and Military Law in a Nutshell is a handy reference tool for those of us who practice law within the military, and it is a useful introductory volume for those who want to learn more about the military legal system. I keep a copy on the bookshelf in my office and frequently peruse it.
Unlike the 1996 edition, Military Law, which did not tackle national security issues , National Security and Military Law in a Nutshell (2003, $24) dedicates an entire chapter to the topic, including a section on the “Scope of the Patriot Act.” It summarizes the act in four paragraphs, which is typical treatment for books in Thomson West’s “nutshell” series. The book also delves into national security crimes, such as the very relevant section on “Terrorism and Support of Terrorist Organizations.” The chapter on national security also discusses border control, tracking aliens, and the removal of aliens from the United States. As with every book in the nutshell series, this book contains case law and federal statutory citations that serve as a valuable starting point for research.
In addition to national security issues, the book also discusses the various topics of the military justice system, rights of servicemembers, veterans’ benefits, and administrative discharge process. One shortcoming of this book is the discussion of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act (SSCRA). The SSCRA, which was passed in the 1940s to protect servicemembers to alleviate various financial and legal hardships caused by entering active duty, was updated and improved by Congress and the president in 2003; it is now called the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). Nevertheless, the purpose and many of the provisions of the old SSCRA are contained within the new SCRA, including the caps on interest rates at 6 percent for obligations incurred prior to entry into active duty.
The book also devotes an entire chapter to the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC). It provides insight into the sources of the rules that govern armed conflict, such as the Geneva and Hague Conventions. There is a renewed interest in LOAC throughout the military and the general public owing to the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq. It should be known that LOAC has long been a required briefing presented by judge advocates to every servicemember. Nevertheless, it is an area of international law that must be reiterated time and time again to military members before, during, and after deployments to ensure it is understood and obeyed.
Lastly, the book correctly distinguishes between the military justice and administrative discharge procedures. People not familiar with the military justice system often confuse punitive discharges, which are issued in a court-martial, with the administrative discharge process. In the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps, it is often said, “Justice is Job One.” For that reason, Chapter 6, “The Military Criminal Justice System,” is the most important chapter in this book. It discusses the origins of the military justice system, the types of courts-martial, jurisdictional issues regarding the member and the offense, and Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA) that govern offenses committed by members stationed overseas. It is a well-written and organized overview of the military justice system, and it provides great case law citations for research purposes.
Note: West Group is a corporate sponsor of the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division; this article appears in connection with the Section’s sponsorship agreement with West Group. Neither the ABA nor ABA sections endorse non-ABA products or services, and this review should not be so construed.
Captain Timothy J. Rushenberg is Assistant Staff Judge Advocate in the U.S. Air Force and is licensed to practice law in the State of Indiana and the District of Columbia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.