James L. Pohl

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James Pohl, in court, in Guantanamo.

Colonel James L. Pohl is an American lawyer and officer in the United States Army.[1]

He is notable for having been appointed as a judge on a Guantanamo military commission.[1] He is presiding over the Commission of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, Walid bin Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Ammar al-Baluchi, and Mustafa al-Hawsawi.[2] From November 2011 to July 2014, Pohl also presided over the military commission of Abd el-Rahim al-Nashiri.[3]

He is notable for serving as the judge of several of the GIs in the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse cases, and barring the demolition of Abu Ghraib because he had ruled it a crime scene.

In December 2008, Pohl was appointed to replace Ralph Kohlmann as the Chief Presiding Officer for the Military Commissions.[4]

Pohl received his J.D. from Pepperdine University in 1978.[2]

Suspension of Guantanamo Hearings[edit]

On January 29, 2009, Pohl denied the request of the Obama Administration to delay proceeding for 120 days in the case of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.[5] Pohl argued that tribunal rules give the judges sole authority to delay cases and that postponing proceedings against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was not reasonable and "does not serve the interest of justice".[6] According to Carol Rosenberg, writing in the Miami Herald, Pohl's ruling stated:[7]

  • "The Commission is bound by the law as it currently exists not as it may change in the future."
  • "The public interest in a speedy trial will be harmed by the delay in the arraignment."

According to Guantanamo spokesman Commander Jeffrey Gordon: "The Department of Defense is currently reviewing Judge Pohl's ruling. We will be in compliance with the president's orders regarding Guantánamo."[5] According to Fox News, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said that Pohl would be directed to comply with Obama's executive order.[8]

On February 5, 2009, the charges were dismissed without prejudice by the convening authority.[9]

Assigned to investigate the Fort Hood shootings[edit]

Pohl was assigned to serve as the investigating officer for the article 32 hearing for Nidal Malik Hasan, the perpetrator of the 2009 Fort Hood shooting.[10]

Assigned to Brigadier General Sinclair Court-Martial[edit]

Pohl was assigned to preside over the court martial of Brigadier General Jeffrey A. Sinclair, a former deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, charged with sodomy.[11] Following acceptance of Sinclair's guilty pleas on some (but not all) of the charges he faced (including adultery with three different women, violating a general order by possessing pornography in the Afghan theater of operations, and conduct unbecoming an officer), Pohl sentenced Sinclair to a reprimand and forfeiture of five thousand dollars a month for four months ($20,000 total).


  1. ^ a b "Col., James L. Pohl, US Army". United States Air Force. p. page 9. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-06-19. Retrieved 2008-06-19.
  2. ^ a b Rosenberg, Carol (2012-04-29). "9/11 judge has handled tough cases before".
  3. ^ "USS Cole case judge names Air Force successor". miamiherald. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  4. ^ Rosenberg, Carol (2008-12-15). "New Guantanamo chief judge warns of change with Obama". Retrieved 1 August 2014.
  5. ^ a b Newspapers, McClatchy (2009-01-30). "Former commander of attacked US war ship slams Obama over Guantánamo". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-01-30.
  6. ^ Peter Finn (2009-01-29). "Military Judge Denies Obama Request to Suspend Guantanamo Hearings". Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-01-29.
  7. ^ Carol Rosenberg (2009-01-29). "Guantánamo judge defies Obama's order for freeze". Miami Herald. Archived from the original on January 30, 2009. Retrieved 2008-09-28.
  8. ^ "Military Judge Refuses to Halt Trial of USS Cole Bombing Suspect". Fox News. 2009-01-29. Retrieved 2009-01-30.
  9. ^ "U.S. drops Guantanamo charges per Obama order". Reuters. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  10. ^ Valentino Lucio (2010-02-13). "Hearing date for Hasan delayed". San Antonio Express. Retrieved 2010-02-13. Col. James Pohl, the investigative officer assigned to the case, granted a request from the defense to delay the start of the hearing, which was originally set for March 1. Pohl served on a Guantanamo military commission and oversaw the case of U.S. troops charged in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ Drew Brooks (2013-01-21). "Experienced military judge draws assignment for Brig. Gen, Jeffrey Sinclair's hearing". Fayetteville Observer. Archived from the original on 2013-02-15. Pohl is believed to be the most senior of all of the Army's judges, with a career that spans four decades. Observers call him a fair judge who isn't afraid to hold lawyers to task.