Twenty-four judges have served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) since its creation in 1950, approximately sixty-nine years ago. Of those twenty-four, two have been women. This spotlight briefly highlights the first woman to serve on the Court. Upon graduation from Bucknell University, Susan Crawford taught at Radnor High School in Radnor, Pennsylvania, for five years before attending law school at New England Law, where she graduated cum laude in 1977. Prior to serving on the Court, Senior Judge Crawford served as General Counsel, Department of the Army, for six years before serving as Special Counsel to the Secretary of Defense. She subsequently served as the Inspector General for the Department of Defense.
In 1991, President George H.W. Bush nominated Senior Judge Crawford to serve on the Court to fill the seat vacated by the legendary Robinson O. Everett. The Senate confirmed her on November 14, 1991, by unanimous consent.
Senior Judge Crawford served her full fifteen-year term, which included serving as Chief Judge from 1999 to 2004. Her term expired on September 30, 2006, but she continues in senior status.
After transitioning to senior status, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates appointed Senior Judge Crawford to succeed then Major General (MG) John Altenburg as Convening Authority for the Military Commissions in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. She served in that role until retiring in January 2010.
Interestingly, Senior Judge Crawford is one of about a handful of CAAF judges that have no prior military experience. However, the lack of military experience had no impact on her ability to author clear, well-reasoned, and forceful majority, concurring, and dissenting opinions.
Visitors to the CAAF courthouse, located at 450 E. Street, N.W., can find Senior Judge Crawford’s portrait hanging in the historic courtroom.