Lieutenant Colonel Colby Vokey is presently the Marine Corps’ chief defense lawyer for the western United States, but as of May 1, 2008, he’s leaving the Corps. His reason? According to Respected Marine Lawyer Alleges Military Injustices by NPR’s Daniel Zwerdling, “Vokey charges that some commanders and officials in the Bush administration have abused the system of justice…”.
Lt. Col. Vokey is responsible for the vigorous defense of the Marines accused of going on a rampage at Haditha. He’s also been fighting against commanders who throw PTSD-afflicted Marines out of the Corps instead of helping them deal with drug addiction or going AWOL with lesser penalties. He’s defended at least one “enemy combatant” imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay and fought to have charges overturned based on the fact that his client reported being abused by his guards. And for having the audacity to defend his clients and to stand up to a system that far too easily railroads juries and defendants, Lt. Col. Vokey was fired.
Vokey said he was not completely surprised when an official at USMC headquarters called him recently to her office in Washington and fired him as chief of defense counsels in the western United States….
But when former Marine Corps lawyers heard about Vokey’s firing, they were incensed. Siegel said Vokey’s firing sent a chilling message that some officials don’t want military lawyers to defend the Constitution too vigorously.
“I believe that Colby Vokey was pulled out of his position because he’s doing too good a job,” Siegel said. “I think that the people in Washington, D.C., don’t like that.”
After Siegel and other well-known lawyers wrote a blistering letter of protest about Vokey’s firing and lobbied top commanders at Marine headquarters, officials backed down and reinstated him.
At least, until he leaves next May.
I don’t know much about Lt. Col. Vokey’s politics. I don’t really care. He sounds like the kind of defense attorney that every defendant, military or civilian, deserves. And I believe that whatever private firm in Texas lands Lt. Col. Vokey will be very well served by him. But to have a career Marine resign because he’s too effective at holding to his oath to uphold the Constitution sends a very, very bad signal to his fellow Marines, the rest of the U.S. military, the country, and the world.