Monday, April 25, 2011

McChrystal and Sherrod: A Case of Government Treatment of Military Members and Civilians Explored

Brandon S. Bruce writes in the Philadelphia Bar Association's "Upon Further Review":
"Recently there were two highly covered incidents involving two workers of federal agencies who had private discussions, which ultimately made their way into National headlines and resulted in the abrupt dismissal of both workers. The first was General Stanley McChrystal, former top U.S. Commander in Afghanistan, who tendered his resignation after he and his aides were quoted mocking and making critical comments concerning key members of the Obama Administration in a Rolling Stone magazine article. The second was Mrs. Shirley Sherrod, a former U.S. Agriculture Department (“USDA”) employee, who was asked to resign after she made a speech at a dinner hosted by the NAACP in which she discussed how she overcame her prejudice against a white farmer and ultimately helped the farmer and his wife save their farm from foreclosure.

What one must acknowledge is that there are a number of differences between these two individuals as well as the events surrounding their much publicized dismissals. Although their situations are superficially analogous, as workers employed by federal agencies who were asked to resign, the truth is the rules and norms that control for each individual involved differ greatly. For example, Mrs. Sherrod is governed by civilian law, whereas General McChrystal’s actions are governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (“UCMJ”) and civilian law. In addition, there is a vast disparity in the responsibility that each shouldered in their respective roles. Note that General McChrystal was a general officer and former top Commander of the longest War in U.S. history who had a direct line to the President whereas Mrs. Sherrod’s was a modest regional employee of the USDA whose duties were relegated to that of the state of Georgia.

Nevertheless, seeing as though both of these individuals created quite a stir with their remarks, it is valuable to reevaluate the predicament of Mrs. Sherrod and General McChrystal due to the widespread aftershocks that ensued as a result. For instance, Mrs. Sherrod’s case caused debate among pundits and critics alike and began an open debate on the role of the media in race relations whereas the General McChrystal controversy prompted the Pentagon to send out a memo to top military officials stating that officials will need “clearance for interviews and other dealings with reporters;” effectively restricting the level of access that military officials have with the press corps. I think it is intriguing and worthwhile to examine both of these situations in the context of the diverging civilian and military settings in order to demonstrate how differently the results would have been from a legal perspective had Mrs. Sherrod been a member of the military and if General McChrystal were working as a civilian....

CONTINUED at "McChrystal and Sherrod: A Case of Government Treatment of Military Members and Civilians Explored

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