Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) today congratulated the military services on their decision to adopt random jury selection in military trials in order to guard against undue influence. During debate in the House Armed Services Committee over the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Rep. Speier introduced an amendment that would have had this effect, though it failed along party lines.
“My Democratic colleagues and I knew randomization – the method used in state and federal district courts throughout the United States – was the best way to avoid charges of undue command influence, which have led to a great deal of appellate litigation in the military justice system,” Rep. Speier said. “Based on this decision – made independently by all five branches of our military – it appears as though we correctly identified a problem that needed fixing. I am proud to see our military leadership has the backbone to bypass partisan politics to address these problems.”
Rep. Speier’s NDAA amendment would have changed selection of jury members within the military justice system by randomizing which servicemembers sat on a panel among those initially selected as qualified by commanders and not challenged for cause.
Separately, the services decided that implementation of the Military Justice Act (MJA) of 2016 required the assignment of random numbers to determine trial panels. The MJA sets minimum panel sizes for certain types of trials. Starting in January 2019, commanders will select a pool of qualified members and the pool will be subject to challenges for cause. Then, if there are more potential jurors remaining than required, the judge will randomly assign jurors numbers and use those numbers to set the panel and the alternates. The military has procedures in place to pull potential jurors from nearby installations if there would not be sufficient numbers otherwise.