Sunday, September 20, 2009

I'm No Lawyer, But...

(H/T to Snavely and Eric [or Evan] in the comments)

If you haven't been following this one, Orly Taitz (Birther in Chief?) has had her head handed to her once again. This time, she was representing Capt. Connie Rhodes (an Army doctor) who was disputing the legality of her deployment orders to Iraq. I can't find Taitz's complaint, so I'm going to have to extrapolate some things from the Judge's response to her request for a Temporary Restraining Order. (link is for a PDF)

I'll admit that I'm not sure whether or not her objection was that " her deployment orders are unconstitutional and unenforceable because President Barack Obama is not constitutionally eligible to act as Commander in Chief of the United States armed forces" (page 1 of the Judge's decision), and therefore an "unlawful order", or if she was seeking "Conscientious Objector" status as alluded to on page 4 of the same decision.

Either way, I've gotta think Capt. Rhodes is well and truly fucked.

Let's look at the unlawful order angle first. It's my understanding that U.S. military personnel not only have a right to disobey an unlawful order, but also have an affirmative obligation to do so. We've got a tradition and legal precedents that just following orders is no defense for a soldier who commits a crime. I'll be the first to admit that under certain circumstances, this places soldiers in a truly unenviable position. You don't have to be a legal scholar to understand that you've been issued an illegal order if your platoon leader orders you to "shoot all those babies, rape all the women and cut off the men's hands and feet". That's pretty clear-cut.

Are there other orders you might receive that would be a little harder to parse? Suppose you're ordered to bomb a clearly labeled maternity hospital. Intelligence says "it's not really a maternity hospital at all; we've seen the head of the enemy's nuclear weapons program entering and exiting the building for the last couple of days. It's a bomb factory." For whatever reason, you happen to know that this same guy's wife had a baby due just about this week. You might be understandably a little conflicted about the quality of the intelligence reports and the legality of your orders. Tough decision, in my mind. (Things would be a little more clear if you were engaged in a firefight and there was an enemy soldier in every window of the same building firing at your unit at the time.)

If the soldier in my second hypothetical refused the order to bomb the "maternity hospital", I have no idea who would prevail in a prosecution. I'd certainly follow the trial with interest because I'd at least feel like the soldier had a good faith reason for believing he'd been issued an unlawful order. As the judge put it, Capt. Connie Rhodes has no such good faith reason.

"She has presented no credible evidence and has made no reliable factual allegations to support her unsubstantiated, conclusory allegations and conjecture that President Obama is ineligible to serve as President of the United States."

Moving on to her (seeming) argument that she should be granted "Conscientious Objector" status, can you have a conscientious objection to a war based solely on who is issuing the orders? Can you follow all of the same guy's orders up to the point where you're ordered to go into harm's way and then have a conscientious objection? If you're regular army (not even a reservist), as I believe Capt. Rhodes is, can you conscientiously object to patching up soldiers in a war you think is wrong...for whatever reason? I'm pretty sure that someone misunderstands the concept of conscientious objection.

From page 13 or the Judge's decision:

"[Capt. Rhodes] insists that she would have no qualms about fulfilling her duties if President George W. Bush was still in office."

This makes me a little curious. If Obama had taken office and immediately ordered all troops home from Iraq within 60 days, would that be an illegal order? Seriously, WTF?

Please note that Judge Land stomps on Taitz pretty early in this decision:

Plaintiff’s counsel is hereby notified that the filing of any future actions in this Court,
which are similarly frivolous, shall subject counsel to sanctions.
Taitz, of course, responded by promptly filing a motion asking the judge to reconsider and the judge responded by giving her 14 days to explain why he shouldn't impose a $10,000 fine on her for disobeying his first order. I can't imagine why she's surprised when she questions the court's legitimacy by accusing it of being subservient "to the same illegitimate chain of command which Plaintiff has previously protested". I always thought judges just loved it when you questioned their authority.

And to put a cap on things, Capt. Rhodes flew to Iraq on Friday, but not before shooting off this letter to the judge explaining that she was unaware of, and had never authorized any further arguments on her behalf. I have to say I question her sincerity when she says, "I had no intention of refusing orders nor will I. I simply wanted to verify the lawfulness of my orders." I think it's much more likely that some officer sat her down after the original decision for a little counseling session, the gist of which was, Knock it the fuck off, soldier!

As the judge put it, this case was never really properly in the civilian jurisdiction; it was subject to the UCMJ and military authority. And I'd think that military authority would have a valid case if they chose to pursue the issue. It's a lot more likely that someone near the top of the food chain has let it be known that they'd prefer the whole thing just whither on the vine instead of lending it any more credence by pursuing it.

Capt. Rhodes seems to have seen the light. Orly Taitz, on the other hand, is in a dark, dark room with no hopes of finding a door, a window, or a light switch.


Janiece said...

That woman is a complete and utter nutbar.

I wonder - can the appropriate state bar take some action against her? She's seriously embarrassing herself, and her profession.

WendyB_09 said...

At the very least they can investigate the matter and review all her filings. The fact that she immediately disobeyed a direct order from the judge will not put her in a favorable light with the bar.

vince said...

She needs to go back to the ooze that spawned her.

MWT said...

Sounds vaguely like someone else we know who likes to file lots of motions, and got deemed vexatious litigant at least twice... >.>

Jim Wright said...

Personal? I sure as hell wouldn't want Dr. Rhoades working on me in any way shape or form, in or out of the combat zone.

Apparently she has deployed to Iraq and severed ties with Oily Taint.

Personally, if it were up to me, I'd make an example out of her for behaving in an unprofessional and dishonorable manner in the first place. But that's me.

Carol Elaine said...

Orly Taitz, on the other hand, is in a dark, dark room with no hopes of finding a door, a window, or a light switch.

The sad thing about that is that Taitz doesn't even know she's in a dark, dark room of her own making. If she even recognizes that she's got no hopes of finding an exit or a light source (and that realization is questionable), she'll probably blame it on Obama and file suit.