Rebecca Stewart: 513-479-3335


U.S. Marine Corps Under Fire for Resuscitating Campus Kangaroo Courts

WASHINGTON / May 26, 2021 – The U.S. Marine Corps has come under sharp criticism for a policy that uses a “dangerously broad definition” of domestic abuse. Alleged violations of these vague definitions can result in “draconian punishments, even in the absence of clear proof.” Commentator James Baresel further reveals how the Marine Corps Headquarters is advising unit commanders to flout the intention of the Department of Defense “domestic abuse” policy in order to undermine due process (1).

The policy, known as “Marine Corps Order 1900.16 (Separation and Retirement Manual,” requires the “mandatory” separation of a Marine believed to have committed emotional abuse (2). The command decision to discharge a service-member is based on the weakest “preponderance of evidence” standard.

Baresel reveals the impact of the Marine policy:

“This means a Marine’s career is over if: 1) He is accused of failing to provide ‘cultural care’; and 2) His commanding officer decides the allegation is more likely true than false. Such practices require playing ‘fast and loose’ with military law. Military law allows punitive discharges only when crimes have been committed. Most forms of ‘abuse’ are not crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”

In 2017 the Department of Defense created a non-criminal category of misconduct termed, “domestic abuse.” Domestic abuse is defined broadly in the DOD Instruction as “Domestic violence or a pattern of behavior resulting in emotional/psychological abuse, economic control, and/or interference with personal liberty.” (3)

“Domestic abuse” also can include neglecting to provide care for a partner who is “culturally” incapable of self-care – an illusory concept that is not defined or explained (4).

The Marine Corps directive reveals how vague definitions can end up vitiating basic notions of fairness, due process, and the presumption of innocence. Overly broad definitions also invite false allegations. According to one report, 28% of allegations of sexual abuse in the DOD were classified as “unfounded.” (5) As a result, service-member morale is harmed and military readiness impaired.

The ill-considered DOD policy recalls recent developments on college campuses. In 2011, the Department of Education released a policy calling on campus disciplinary committees to adjudicate sexual offenses. Expansive interpretations of “sexual assault” and the vitiation of due process protections resulted in these panels becoming derisively called “Kangaroo Courts.”

A wave of lawsuits by wrongfully expelled students ensued. The 2011 policy was later revoked by the Department of Education, and replaced with a new due process regulation that went into effect on August 14, 2020. (6)


  3. Department of Defense (DOD) Instruction 6400.06, Domestic Abuse Involving DOD Military and Certain Affiliated Personnel, May 26, 2017 Page 36
  4. Table 1