Justice for all: Courtroom open for business

  • Published
  • By Robert Brooks
  • 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

The 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing’s office of the Staff Judge Advocate opened the doors to the first dedicated military courtroom for Creech Air Force Base, May 27, 2020.

The courtroom, which hosted the first court-martial on May 28, is critical to ensuring Airmen are not only given a fair and speedy trial but are also receiving support from their on-base community.

Nearly a year in the making, the creation of the Creech AFB courthouse and the office of the Staff Judge Advocate standing on its own began once the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander, Col. Stephen Jones, received installation command authority in October 2019 and thus assumed the role of Special Court-Martial Convening Authority.

In the past, all Airmen assigned to Creech AFB were tried at Nellis AFB. This was, in part, due to the infrastructure, but also because all legal support provided to Creech Airmen was from the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center.

“It’s not every day the Air Force opens a new courthouse,” said Lt. Col. Daniel Schoeni, Creech AFB Staff Judge Advocate. “However, this team made it happen, and happen fast. Now we can better support the Hunter Family.”

The dedicated space allows the office of the Staff Judge Advocate to process courts without the delay associated with searching for temporary facilities or scheduling around conflicts with Nellis Air Force Base.

In addition, coworkers or supervisors at Creech can more easily support the Airmen who are undergoing trial.

“Creech members put on trial at Creech will be with other Creech members,” said Staff Sgt. Tiffany Austin, Creech AFB’s NCOIC of Justice.  “That support system makes a big difference.” 

However, the team had to make special considerations for the courthouse’s safe and successful use through the pandemic.

With Federal, State and Local COVID-19 restrictions still in place, the legal team has prepared the space to abide by social distancing precautions, which will continue to be strictly enforced as they conduct more trials.

“When members enter the court room, they will be met by two bailiffs,” said Capt. Koley Borchard, Assistant Staff Judge Advocate. “The bailiffs will make sure everyone is wearing a protective mask, and hand sanitizer will be available at different locations within the room.” 

The room is also arranged in order to keep safe distance between key players throughout the trial.

Moving forward, there will be permanent furniture installed, to include a dedicated space for the panel of members (jury). Other courtroom technology will include audio recording equipment and audio-visual devices to accommodate video conferencing or displaying evidence.

When not in use for a trial, the courtroom can be used for other official and legal functions, including Article 32 preliminary hearings, pretrial confinement hearings, administrative discharge boards, boards of inquiry, and flying evaluation boards.