Students Participate in Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals Case

Three JAG judges stand behind the bench, with four GW Law students standing in front for a group photo.
Back Row: Judge (Colonel) Michael A. Lewis, Senior Judge (Colonel) Richard D. Mink, and Judge (Colonel) Diana L. Johnson. Front Row: Andrei Satchlian, 2L, Joseph Grossman, 2L, Alice Lee, 3L, and C'zar Bernstein, 3L.
February 21, 2020

The GW Law Military Law Society and National Security Law Association hosted the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals for an oral argument in the Jacob Burns Moot Court Room, followed by a question and answer session and reception. Four GW Law students submitted amicus briefs for both parties and appeared before the court for the hearing.

C'zar Bernstein, 3L, and Alice Lee, 3L, submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the appellee. Joseph Grossman, 2L, and Andrei Satchlian, 2L, also wrote an amicus brief but in support of the appellant. Ms. Lee and Mr. Grossman, who both previously interned with the Air Force JAG Corps, presented oral arguments based on their amicus briefs to the court and responded to questions from the judges.

Ms. Lee said when she was presented with the opportunity to argue before the court, she was nervous but excited. Her appearance before the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals judges was her first oral argument before an actual court.

"Working with the other students and practicing attorneys was such a great experience," Ms. Lee said. "This really was an opportunity to get my foot in the door and gain real-world experience."

For Joseph Grossman, who represented the student team who submitted the amicus brief in support of the appellant, this was the first experience he had writing an amicus brief.

"It can really be a challenge because you're trying to bring a different approach than the appellate defense counsel presented," Mr. Grossman said. "We had a lot of great guidance from our coach and encouragement from counsel on the brief."

The Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals hears and decides appeals of Air Force courts-martial convictions. The court, made up of Senior Judge (Colonel) Richard D. Mink, Judge (Colonel) Michael A. Lewis, and Judge (Colonel) Diana L. Johnson, heard arguments in the case of United States v. Airman First Class Jonathan D. Painter.

Airman First Class Painter was convicted, contrary to his pleas, of one specification of sexual assault in violation of Article 120, Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), 10 U.S.C. § 920, and two specifications of indecent recording in violation of Article 120c, UCMJ, 10 U.S.C. § 920c. He was sentenced to a dishonorable discharge, confinement for one month, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, reduction to the grade of E-1, and a reprimand. 

The appeal was brought by the appellant to suppress evidence presented during trial and obtained from his cellphone as derivative evidence of a violation of his Fifth Amendment right to counsel.

Military criminal appellate courts have held annual oral argument hearings at GW Law as part of their public outreach programs since 2009, including the Army Court of Criminal Appeals in 2019, the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals in 2018 and 2017, and the Army Court of Criminal Appeals in 2016.