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YLS Lecturer Eugene Fidell, Legal Scholars Publish Open Letter on Military Justice Reforms

Led by Florence Rogatz Visiting Lecturer in Law Eugene Fidell, a group of 34 legal scholars have published a statement encouraging Congress to consider making structural changes to the military justice system in order to address the growing number of sexual assaults and other serious offenses that have dominated public debate in recent weeks.

“We do not believe structural changes will cure all of the problems that have come so forcefully to public attention, but unless structural changes are made, we are concerned that our military personnel will not be receiving the kind of justice they deserve,” states the June 7 letter, which outlines 11 ways changes could be implemented to reform military justice. The letter also warns Congress to take the time needed to carefully and thoughtfully study these issues, but notes it should not “use study as a substitute for action.”

Fidell, who has been teaching military justice since 1993, said the statement was written as a direct response to the hearing conducted on June 4, 2013 by the full Senate Committee on Armed Services, which was dominated by a witness panel composed of all of the service chiefs and Judge Advocates General as well as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his lawyer.

“The Statement's goal is to encourage Congress and the public to view the current controversy over sexual assault in the armed forces as not only a cultural matter, but a structural one affecting all kinds of criminal conduct within the military,” said Fidell. “It's critical that the legal academy be an active participant in this important debate.”

The letter is signed by legal professors from schools throughout the country, with several faculty members and lecturers signing from Yale Law School, including Sterling Professor Bruce Ackerman; Clinical Professor Emeritus of Law Dennis E. Curtis; Crawford Visiting Lecturer in Law Lawrence Fox; Professor Emeritus of Law John Simon; and William O. Douglas Clinical Professor Emeritus of Law Stephen Wizner.

Read the full statement here.