United States v. Paterson – Government Misconduct – CCR Docket Fall 1991

On August 29, 1991, 22-year-old Californian Jeffrey Paterson publicly proclaimed his opposition to the Gulf war and refused to join the hundreds of thousands of U.S. armed forces President Bush had already sent to the Middle East. While staff sergeants attempted to push him onto an aircraft, Paterson sat down in the hangar. Paterson faced a court martial and a potential sentence of up to five and a half years in federal prison and was refused bail and kept in brig confinement for three weeks, because he was considered a “national security threat.”

CCR filed a motion in November 1990 in the Island Judicial Circuit Court in Hawaii to defend Paterson’s conscientious objection to the President’s illegal deployment of troops. In violation of the explicit language of the Constitution and the 1973 War Powers Resolution, the President unilaterally ordered U.S. troops to commit acts of war and engage in hostilities without congressional consent. Three months after the initial engagement, with over 300,000 troops stationed in the Gulf in imminent danger, and an ongoing blockade which itself constituted an act of war, the President still had  not  obtained  congressional approval.

One month after CCR argued its motion, Paterson was released with an “other than honorable discharge” in a settlement reached with the military. The settlement kept CCR’s constitutional claims from receiving consideration in federal  court.

Jose Luis Morfn, Beth Stephens, Michael Ratner and Eric A. Seit