Dustup Over Military Appeals Judge Delaying Cases

WICHITA, Kan. - Dozens of military criminal cases have been thrown into limbo because of a legal challenge over whether Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel improperly appointed a judge to the Air Force's highest court.

The military's highest court has sent at least 37 cases back to the Air Force Court of Appeals that were handled by former Judge Laurence Soybel. Defense attorneys say that will delay their cases at least six months.

Soybel was a civilian when Hagel appointed the retired Air Force major and former judge to help alleviate a backlog of criminal cases.

But defense attorneys are questioning Soybel's independence, noting that Hagel has publicly criticized the Air Force's handling of sexual assault cases.

The Air Force insists Soybel was properly appointed.

No hearings have been scheduled in the dispute.

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