This amicus brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court case of United States v. Briggs on behalf of a bipartisan group of thirteen members of Congress discusses the absence of any statute of limitation for rape prosecutions within the military. It argues that the Constitution entrusts Congress with authority over military discipline, including the authority to determine what (if any) statutes of limitations apply to crimes that occur within the military. By classifying rape as an “offense punishable by death” and stipulating that “offenses punishable by death” are not subject to statutes of limitations, Congress entrenched the policy that rape within the military is not subject to any statute of limitations at all. Whether the death penalty can be constitutionally imposed for the rape of an adult—an open question in the specialized military context—is wholly irrelevant to the key question in the case: Whether Congress determined that the death penalty is warranted for rape in the military. Congress’ policy judgment—that rape within the military is so heinous and so damaging to military effectiveness that no temporal restriction should be placed on its prosecution—is entitled to respect. Rape in the military has devastating effects on survivors individually and military readiness generally. And the military’s hierarchical command structure can exacerbate the understandable reluctance of rape survivors to come forward and report the crimes committed against them. In light of those considerations, the provisions in the Uniform Code of Military Justice that address rape in the military have been understood for decades to reflect Congress’ intent that those who commit the crime of rape should not be permitted to escape justice by hiding behind the passage of time.
Cassell, Paul; Ehrett, John; Ho, Allyson N.; Hubbard, Bradley; Axt, Philip; Barakat, Jodeph; and Molloy, Thomas, "U.S. v. Briggs: Brief of Members of Congress As Amici Curiae in Support of Petitioner" (2020). Utah Law Faculty Scholarship. 198.