[JURIST] US Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann [JURIST news archive] announced Monday that his retirement from the post of chief judge of US military commissions [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] will be effective immediately. Kohlmann initially announced his retirement [JURIST report] in September, but said then that it would not be effective until April 2009. According to an AFP report [text], Kohlmann decided to step down from the military commissions cases because the trials would still not be finished at the time of his planned retirement. Kohlmann has reportedly chosen Army judge Col. Stephen Henley [DOD biography, PDF] to replace him. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] questioned Kohlmann's move [press release], and ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said:
The timing of the announcement to replace the military commission judge on the 9/11 cases is highly suspect and disturbing. We cannot allow the Bush administration to sabotage President-elect Obama's plans by ramming through these cases in its last days while the new administration is making plans to dismantle the military commission system.
The Washington Post has more.
Kohlmann has served as chief judge of the military commissions since 2007. After his appointment, the New York Times noted [report] that Kohlmann had criticized the concept of military commissions in a paper [text] he had written in 2002 as a master's student at the US Naval War College [official website]. Kohlmann wrote that US district courts would be a better venue for terrorism suspects' trials because of a perception that military commissions lack independence and credibility. In another recent personnel change at the military commissions, US Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann [official profile; JURIST news archive] was reassigned [JURIST report] to the newly-created position of director of operations of the Office of Military Commissions. In his former position as legal advisor to the military commissions, Hartmann had been barred from taking part in certain detainees' trials on the grounds that he was biased toward the prosecution [JURIST report].