Courts-martial are adversarial proceedings, as are all United States criminal courts. That is, lawyers representing the government and the accused present the facts, legal aspects, and arguments most favorable to each side; a military judge determines questions of law , and the members of the panel (or military judge in a judge-alone case ...
Macomb, Alexander, Major General of the United States Army, The Practice of Courts Martial, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1841) 154 pages. Macomb, Alexander, A Treatise on Martial Law, and Courts-Martial as Practiced in the United States.
The Manual for Courts-Martial (MCM) is the official guide to the conduct of courts-martial in the United States military.An Executive Order of the President of the United States, the MCM details and expands on the military law established in the statute Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
Courts-martial in the United States are trials conducted by the U.S. military or by state militaries. Most commonly, courts-martial are convened to try members of the U.S. military for criminal violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), which is the U.S. military's criminal code. However, they can also be convened for other purposes, including military tribunals and the ...
- Historical Development
- Constitutional Foundation For Courts-Martial
- Types of Court-Martial
- Court-Martial Process
- Appeals in Courts-Martial
- Courts-Martial and Appellate Courts as Legislative (Article I) Courts
- Congressional Oversight
- Access to The U.S. Supreme Court After Appeals
- Further Reading
- See Also
From the earliest beginnings of the United States, military commanders have played a central role in the administration of military justice. The American military justice system, derived from its British predecessor, predates the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. While military justice in the United States has evolved considerably over the years, the convening authority has remained the instrument of selecting a panel for courts-martial. Tribunals for the trial of military offenders have coexisted with the early history of armies. The modern court-martial is deeply rooted in systems that predated written military codes and were designed to bring order and discipline to armed, and sometimes barbarous, fighting forces. Both the ancient Greeks and the Romans had military justice codes, although no written versions of them survive. Moreover, nearly every form of military tribunal included a trial before a panel or members of some type. The greatest influence on the modern...
The Framers of the Constitution were cognizant of the power struggle between Parliament and the King regarding the powers of the military. Many of the Framers were combat veterans from the Continental Army and understood the demands of military life and the need for a well-disciplined fighting force. The solution to the government of the armed forces was a classic balancing of constitutional interests and powers. They assured that Congress - with its responsiveness to the population, its fact-finding ability, and its collective deliberative processes - would provide for the government of the armed forces. The Framers of the Constitution had a great respect for the value of separation of powers. One of the primary goals of the Constitutional Convention, in remedying the defects of the Articles of Confederation, was to create a government in which separate branches of power served as a check and balance against the other. Principles of separation of powers also applied to the military...
There are three types of courts-martial—summary, special and general. A conviction at a general court-martial is equivalent to a civilian conviction in a federal district court. Special courts-martial are considered "federal misdemeanorcourts" because they cannot impose confinement longer than one year. Summary courts-martial have no civilian equivalent.
Detention before trial
Under Article 10 of the UCMJ, 'immediate steps' should be taken to bring the accused to trial. Although there is currently no upper time limit on detention before trial, Rule 707 of the Manual for Courts-Martial prescribes a general maximum of 120 days for 'speedy trial'. Under Article 13, punishment other than arrest or confinement is prohibited before trial, and confinement should be no more rigorous than is required to ensure the accused's presence at trial.
Composition of the Court
Under Article 25of the UCMJ, members of the court are selected from members of the armed forces by the convening authority. Although the Founding Fathers of the United States guaranteed American citizens the right of a jury trial both in the text of the Constitution and in the Bill of Rights, they determined that Congress would establish the rules for disciplining the armed forces. From the beginning, Congress has retained the long-standing practice whereby, contrary to the principle of rando...
Burden of Proof
At a trial by court-martial, the accused service member is presumed innocent and the government bears the burden of proving his or her guilt, by legal and competent evidence, beyond a reasonable doubt. Reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the accused must be resolved in favor of the accused. In other words, an accused service member must be "given the benefit of the doubt." If the the accused is charged with an offense that carries a mandatory sentence to death, then a conviction on that alleg...
There are procedures for post-trial review in every case, although the extent of those appellate rights depends upon the punishment imposed by the court and approved by the convening authority. Cases involving a punitive discharge, dismissal, confinement for one year or more, or death will undergo automatic review by the appropriate military Court of Criminal Appeals. Further review is possible to the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.
In parsing the debate about command selection of panel members, it is important to place the court-martial in its context as a legislative (Article I) court. Article III courts do not handle all of the judicial business in the United States. For over two hundred years, Congress has used its enumerated powers under the Constitution in conjunction with the Necessary and Proper Clauseto create specialized tribunals, including courts-martial, which are free from the protections of Article III. There are no constitutional infirmities in the creation of these courts. In fact, these courts help Congress carry out its enumerated powers efficiently - the court-martial is an example where the protections, procedures, and inherent inefficiencies of Article III courts would interfere with the military's ability to use the system effectively to help maintain good order and discipline. In fact, Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution says Congress shall have the power "To make Rules for the Gove...
The Framers consciously placed the government and regulation of the military in the hands of the legislative branch. Congress has provided oversight of the military "jury" selection process since the Founding. In over two hundred and twenty-five years of congressional control over the court-martial system, the practice of command selection of the "jury" has survived every attack. Over the years, Congress has statutorily limited the discretion of the convening authority and created a justice system that seeks to balance the legitimate needs of the military with the demands of due process. Following both World War I and World War II, there were outcries for Congress to reform military justice. When the troops returned from WWI, the public was outraged with stories of miscarriages of justice. This led to the first public movement to civilianize military law. In 1920, Congress made revisions to the Articles of War. This led to the imposition of a set of personal criteria for the command...
In certain limited circumstances, service members have their cases heard by the Supreme Court. Since 2005, various bills have been introduced in Congress to give service members an appeal of their cases to the United States Supreme Court. None of these bills has been enacted, and as of 2010 there is legislation pending.Macomb, Alexander, Major General of the United States Army, The Practice of Courts Martial, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1841) 154 pages.Macomb, Alexander, A Treatise on Martial Law, and Courts-Martial. (Charleston: J. Hoff, 1809), republished (New York: Lawbook Exchange, June 2007), ISBN 1-58477-709-5, ISBN 978-1-58477-709-0, 340 p...Saltzburg, Stephen; Schinasi, Lee D; & Schluster, David A., Military Rules of Evidence Manual. (Newark: LexisNexis, January 2003). ISBN 0-87215-969-8; ISBN 978-0-327-16329-9.The 1992 trial film A Few Good Men centers around a court-martial in the United States, and is one of several trial moviesthat do so.
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Usually, a court-martial takes the form of a trial with a presiding judge, a prosecutor and defensive counsel (all trained lawyers as well as officers) and (in some cases) a panel of officers (and sometimes enlisted personnel) acting as jury. The precise format varies from one country to another and may also depend on the severity of the accusation.
Courts martial have the authority to try a wide range of military offences, many of which closely resemble civilian crimes like fraud, theft or perjury. Others, like cowardice, desertion, and insubordination, are purely military crimes. Military offences are defined in the Armed Forces Act 2006 for members of the British Military. Regulations for the Canadian Forces are found in the Queen's Regulations and Orders as well as the National Defence Act. For members of the United States armed forces offenses are covered under the Uniform Code of Military Justice(UCMJ). These offences, as well as their corresponding punishments and instructions on how to conduct a court-martial, are explained in detail based on each country and/or service.
In Canada, there is a two-tier military trial system. Summary trials are presided over by superior officers, while more significant matters are heard by courts martial, which are presided over by independent military judges serving under the independent Office of the Chief Military Judge. Appeals are heard by the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada. Capital punishment in Canada was abolished generally in 1976, and for military offences in 1998. Harold Pringlewas the last Canadian soldier exe...
The Basic Law (Grundgesetz) (adopted after the Second World War in 1949) establishes in Art. 96 para. 2 that courts-martial can be established by federal law. Such courts-martial would take action in a State of Defense (Verteidigungsfall)and only against soldiers abroad or at sea. However, no such law has been passed to date and German soldiers are tried exclusively before civil courts.
There are four kinds of courts-martial in India. These are the General Court Martial (GCM), District Court Martial (DCM), Summary General Court Martial (SGCM) and Summary Court Martial (SCM). According to the Army Act, army courts can try personnel for all kinds of offences except for murder and rape of a civilian, which are primarily tried by a civilian courtof law.
In the United States, Courts-martial are conducted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), 10 U.S.C. §§ 801–946, and the Manual for Courts-Martial. If the trial results in a conviction, the case is reviewed by the convening authority – the person who referred the case for trial by court-martial. The convening authority has ...
Courts-martial in the United States are criminal trials conducted by the U.S. military.Most commonly, courts-martial are convened to try members of the U.S. military for violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (or UCMJ), which is the U.S. military's criminal code.
The 2012 edition of the United States Manual for Courts-Martial states that: Any person found guilty of desertion or attempt to desert shall be punished, if the offense is committed in time of war, by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct, but if the desertion or attempt to desert occurs at any other time, by such ...
The military’s version of a civilian criminal trial is called a court-martial, and to no surprise, the procedures for armed forces and noncombatant trials differ significantly. The Uniform Code ...