The officer overseeing legal affairs for the United States Coast Guard has agreed to post all Coast Guard court martial dockets online in early 2009.
In a letter to the Reporters Committee, Rear Admiral William D. Baumgartner, Judge Advocate General of the Coast Guard, said that he “hope[d], barring any unforeseen technical difficulties, to have the docket available by the end of January, 2009.” According to a 2008 survey by the Tully Center for Free Speech at Syracuse University and the Reporters Committee, only the Army currently provides centralized online access to its dockets.
Baumgartner’s letter cited an August 2008 Reporters Committee white paper urging increased public access to military dockets, which list vital information about courts martial such as charges and hearing dates. The white paper found that “[u]nlike civilian courts, which routinely supply the public with detailed dockets, most military courts release docketing information sporadically at their own self-interested discretion, if at all.”
“We applaud Admiral Baumgartner for posting court martial dockets, which are essential tools for any journalist covering the military justice system,” said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy Dalglish. “We hope the other services quickly follow suit.”