The House last week approved a bill that would allow service members convicted in courts martial to appeal their case all the way to the Supreme Court, a rung of the federal judiciary generally forbidden to them since the court’s establishment in 1789. But the bill’s prospects in the Senate are far less promising.
The Equal Justice for Our Military Act passed in the House on Saturday by voice vote, reviving the measure after two years of inertia in committee. The bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Susan Davis, D-Calif., and its supporters outside of Congress say it fixes a longstanding inequity that permits the government, but not service members, to beat a path to the high court.
The Department of Defense opposes the bill, raising concerns that service members could abuse the right and burden the Supreme Court with a glut of appeals.
The Senate bill, sponsored by another Californian, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), faces more obstacles than its counterpart in the House, Navy Times reports. The clock on this Congress is running out, and the bill exited the Senate Judiciary Committee without an up-or-down vote -- hardly a full-throated endorsement. Moreover, the bill’s consideration this late in the session would require the unanimous consent in the Senate, and at least one Republican senator opposes it.
Norbert Basil MacLean III, a Navy veteran who has long pushed for the measure (and who wrote a commentary piece about the subject for Legal Times), says the bill is long overdue.
“I hope in the waning days of this Congress, the full Senate will act and move swiftly to pass this bill so that it can be enacted as law this year," MacLean says.