Appellate judges visit Tinker AFB

  • Published
  • By Mike W. Ray
  • Tinker Public Affairs
Two judges and the clerk of the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Armed Forces made a rare visit to Tinker Air Force Base recently.

All five CAAF judges were in the Sooner State to hear oral arguments in a "live" case at the University of Oklahoma in the Dick Bell Courtroom of the OU School of Law.

Three of the judges left shortly after oral arguments concluded, but Chief Judge James E. Baker, Judge Scott Stucky and Clerk of the Court Bill DeCicco remained. Those three toured an AWACS E-3 Sentry aircraft while at Tinker. Earlier in the week, all five judges and their clerk traveled to Fort Sill at Lawton for a similar tour of the Army post there.

The CAAF exercises worldwide appellate jurisdiction over members of the armed forces on active duty and other persons who are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The court is comprised of five civilian judges who are appointed to 15-year terms by the President with the consent of the Senate.

Cases on the court's docket address a broad range of legal issues, including constitutional law, criminal law, evidence, criminal procedure, ethics, administrative law, and national security law. CAAF decisions are subject to direct review by the U.S. Supreme Court. The CAAF hears appeals of criminal cases from all branches of the armed forces.

Maj. Chad Jespersen, deputy staff judge advocate, 72nd Air Base Wing, explained that while in Oklahoma the CAAF judges listened to oral arguments from both the government and the appellant. The case focused on whether the trial judge properly allowed the government to use evidence seized by an Airman's First Sergeant during a warrantless entry into the Airman's off-base residence. The seized evidence led to the Airman's larceny conviction in a general court-martial.

According to Lt. Col. David Vercellone, 72nd ABW staff judge advocate, every six months CAAF hears oral arguments in a live case at a law school somewhere in the continental U.S. In addition, they make an effort to visit nearby military bases in conjunction with their outreach program.

"When they visit with active-duty military members and senior military leaders, they have an opportunity to engage face-to-face with the population that is the focus of their appellate practice," Colonel Vercellone said. "Several of the judges also have prior military experience, and as such they have some personal connection to our Airmen."

Chief Judge Baker was graduated from the Yale Law School in 1990 and served in the Marine Corps as an infantry officer. He served as a legislative aid and acting chief of staff to the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and in the Office of the Legal Adviser, U.S. Department of State, he provided legal advice on law enforcement, intelligence, and counter-terrorism issues. His civil service also included a posting as Counsel to the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, and in 1997-2000 he was Special Assistant to the President and legal Adviser to the NSC. He was appointed to the CAAF in 2000.

Judge Stucky was reared in Kansas, and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve through ROTC while attending Wichita State University. He was graduated from Harvard Law School, and went on active duty as a judge advocate in the Air Force. In 1983 he became a civilian legislative counselor for the Department of the Air Force, and four years later became the Air Force's principal legislative counsel. In 1996 he became General Counsel of the Senate Committee on Armed Services. From 1982 to 2003 Judge Stucky served in the Air Force Reserve as a judge advocate individual mobilization augmentee. He retired in 2003 as a colonel, and was appointed to the CAAF in 2006.

Mr. DeCicco began his career at CAAF just days after he retired from the Navy, where he served for 26 years as an enlisted Sailor and a commissioned officer. His final assignment in the Navy was as a judge and then as Chief Judge of the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals.