Pat Meehan (R-Delaware) is a co-sponsor of the Article 32 Reform Act, a bipartisan bill that would protect victims of sexual assault in the military’s legal system.
Meehan and Jackie Speier, a Democrat from southern San Francisco, introduced legislation that would reform pre-trial “Article 32” hearings in cases of rape.
According to Meehan’s office, the Article 32 Reform Act would narrow cross-examination in pre-trial hearings. These proceedings would then resemble the preliminary hearings seen in federal civilian courts. The bill would ensure ensure the alleged victim is not forced to testify publicly in a preliminary hearing, and a military lawyer would be required to preside over Article 32 proceedings.
Before he was a congressman, Meehan was a U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
The Article 32 Reform Act is a response to a September story from the New York Times. At the US Naval Academy, lawyers for three football players accused of rape aggressively questioned a female midshipman, the alleged victim, about her sexual habits. The interrogation occurred during an Article 32 pre-trial proceeding, which would determine if the case would head to a court-martial. Invasive questioning that is impermissible at regular trials can appear at Article 32 proceedings in military court.
“It takes great courage for a victim to come forward and they should never be made to feel they are on trial,” Meehan stated. “Hours and hours of invasive public questioning in a pre-trial proceeding is cruel and unnecessary. This bipartisan legislation ends this abuse by instituting federal court practices that have proven effective in pursuing justice and protecting victims.”
Similar legislation was introduced in the Senate, with bipartisan support from sponsors including Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), John McCain (R-AZ), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA).