Wednesday, February 19, 2014

All Rise! (Part the First)

Richard Moll as Night Court's rather intimidating bailiff.
bailiff (noun) Officer of some U.S. courts whose duties include keeping order in the courtroom and guarding prisoners or jurors in deliberation. In medieval Europe, it was a title of some dignity and power, denoting a manorial superintendent or royal agent who collected fines and rent, served writs, assembled juries, made arrests, and executed the monarch's orders. The bailiff's authority was gradually eroded by the increasing need to use administrators with legal or other specialized training.
As many of you might remember, I was once a Master Sergeant on active duty in the Air Force. (I consider myself to still be a Master Sergeant, though a retired one. I still consider that to be my rightful title. Call me Sarge, call me Master Sergeant, do not call me Mister!) My last active duty assignment was to the NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force, E-3A Component based at Geilenkirchen NATO Air Base in Germany. (For those who are new here, now you know. For all you long time readers, yeah, both of you, see me after class...)

It was in Germany that I ascended to the lofty position of Master Sergeant. The precise year of that event escapes me, for I am old now and much that was is now lost in the mists of time. That which remains is hard to nail down, date-wise. I could look it up, but I am not only old, I am also somewhat lazy. We all have our faults I suppose.


It came to pass that a court martial was to be held at the American facilities at Geilenkirchen. I never grasped the reasons for it to be held there, perhaps "neutral ground" would explain it. I don't know. Mine was not to reason why, etc., etc.

At any rate, my higher ups informed me that I was to perform duties as a bailiff at said court martial. The senior bailiff as a matter of fact. The other bailiff was an E-5 Staff Sergeant, why they needed two, I don't know. This particular trial was short, sweet and to the point.

It seems the Air Force had gathered us all together to pass judgement upon a female lieutenant colonel (O-5) who had committed various, sundry and divers offenses which violated various articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). These offenses were of both a sexual and financial nature such as to bring great shame and discredit upon the United States Air Force. (Or so the charge sheet claimed, IIRC.)

To keep a short story indeed short, the lady had elected a trial by judge alone. Evidence was presented, testimony was given but the bottom line is that the lady fessed up to her crimes and threw herself upon the tender mercies of the court.

Her concept of justice was, "Yes, I've been bad. But I'm human and so close to retirement, can't we just call it a day? I promise not to do it again."

Um, no. That didn't happen. Upon receiving a commission as an officer in the United States military, the officer receives this (the commission is an actual document):

The President of the United States of America

To all who shall see these presents, greetings:

Know Ye that, reposing special trust and confidence in the patriotism, valor, fidelity and abilities of .................., I do appoint ["him" or "her"] a ["Second Lieutenant" or "Ensign"] in the [name of service] to rank as such from the .... day of ........ ...... This Officer will therefore carefully and diligently discharge the duties of the office to which appointed by doing and performing all manner of things thereunto belonging.

And I do strictly charge and require those Officers and other personnel of lesser rank to render such obedience as is due an officer of this grade and position. And this Officer is to observe and follow such orders and directives, from time to time, as may be given by me, or the future President of the United States of America, or other Superior Officers acting in accordance with the laws of the United States of America.

This commission is to continue in force during the pleasure of the President of the United States of America for the time being, under the provisions of those Public Laws relating to Officers of the Armed Forces of the United States of America and the component thereof in which this appointment is made.

Done at the City of Washington, this .... day of ........ in the year of our Lord ................ and of the Independence of the United States of America the ..........

By the President:
The lady violated that "special trust and confidence in the patriotism, valor, fidelity and abilities" mentioned above. Therefore, the judge decided that she would not pass "Go", she would not collect $200 and as of close of business that very day she was no longer an officer in the United States Air Force. She must turn in all government owned property (which includes ID cards) and be off the base before sundown. Or words to that effect.
Seriously, at or around 1700 local, she would be a civilian and had to off the base.

No jail time, no fines but she was discharged from the military under less than honorable conditions. Good luck finding a job, neh?

For that trial, I didn't really need to do anything except say "All Rise" at the start of each court session. The trial lasted a day. One. Whole. Day. Seems everything had been decided on pre-trial. The only suspense was over the sentence.

Now the second trial was a lot more interesting. Yes, I had a second gig as a bailiff about a year later. Another lieutenant colonel (this one male), another "sex trial".

My fellow Master Sergeants were starting to wonder...


  1. Kinda like my fellow E-5s wondered why I was always the one selected for Shore Patrol on duty days.

    1. There's a story which should be told. (Or if you've already told it, a link should be provided.)

      As long as the punctuation is good. Never know when Buck is "grading" these things. (Heh.)

    2. As a former editor of mine said to me, often: "I have a red pen and I WILL use it."

      Caveat emptor.

    3. Shouldn't that be a blue pencil?

      No, Sarge, the story hasn't been told... yet.

    4. You'll have to ask Buck, he mentioned the red pen, not I.

      I like the way you used "yet". (Now I'm waiting with breathless anticipation...)

    5. I like the way you used "yet".

      Oh, my. You can buy 'em books, send 'em to school, and all they do is... (you fill in the rest).

      I so think you take perverse pride in flaunting convention.

    6. Just now you're figuring that out?

      (I also like annoying my elders...)

  2. As most of us observed while on active duty, there's not much that makes a lot of sense in the military on most days.

  3. As for the story... methinks bein' a bailiff beats the HELL outta bein' a defendant. ;-)

  4. NAS Whidbey Island Restriction Barracks Staff............Did this and the prisoner transport...............a lot.

  5. Was called as a witness twice. First time, we three witnesses, the accused, and four members of his unit were all loaded in the back of a deuce for a forty mile ride to the accused's Brigade Headquarters. Tense ride..


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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