“Different strokes for different ranks.” This statement usually refers to higher ranking service members being treated better than junior service members. And that is often true. But when it comes to military justice and the UCMJ, sometimes more senior Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors are actually worse off. Almost every commander of general or flag rank has a “Withholding Policy” that pulls all disciplinary and judicial actions involving certain ranks (usually E-8 and above) up to that commander. Which means that when an allegation is made against an officer or a senior NCO, that case is constantly being tracked and briefed to a senior commander. Likewise, if an allegation is made against a commander, that action is withheld up to an even higher level, in some cases up to the Secretary of Defense.

Not only are actions involving senior service members held to far more scrutiny by policy, they also receive much more media attention. And the higher the rank, the more the attention. This results in it being very difficult for the military to drop a bad case or even reach a reasonable plea agreement with a senior service member who has been accused of a crime or misconduct. Once the allegations against you (no matter how false or improbable) have been written about in the press, it becomes very difficult to reach a fair or just result. To make matters worse, if you want to fight back in the press, it is very difficult to do so with only an uniformed lawyer. The defense lawyers provided by the military services have restrictions in place on their interactions with the press. Only a civilian defense lawyer can get out in front when it comes to media attention and your case.

Finally, the effect of all this scrutiny is that the “fix” can be in behind the scenes for a case involving a senior service member. There can be tremendous pressure behind the scenes on everyone involved to reach the “right” result as the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard or Air Force see it. In one recent case involving an allegation against a lieutenant-colonel, he (and by extension) his lawyers were ordered to not investigate the case, crippling his defense. You need a defense lawyer who is completely immune to this pressure.