The military culture is a different culture with its own language, culture, and customs, and only someone who has served in the military can understand that culture. The concepts of duty, honor, and service lie at the heart of military service and are not well understood by civilians. The discipline that comes from military service is also a foreign concept to most civilians as are the judicial and administrative systems by which good order and discipline is enforced.
Fortunately, we understand both the military justice and administrative systems well. Dennis Boyle spent a career in the Judge Advocate General’s Corp (JAG) of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Navy Reserve, deploying to the Middle East on board the U.S.S. Saratoga (CV 60) during the Persian Gulf War during his active-duty career. Before retiring from the Reserve, he served as an appellate defense counsel, general litigation counsel, and Commissioner (the military equivalent to judge) in the Navy JACG Corps. He has represented hundreds of military members during his long career and afterwards.
The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard are all governed by the same Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The UCMJ contains procedural articles and punitive articles. The punitive articles establish the “crimes” that may be prosecuted in the military and look similar to many state criminal codes.
These crimes are tried by military courts-martial. There are three types of courts-martial: general courts-martial, special courts-martial, and summary courts-martial. Summary courts-martial are reserved for minor offenses and cannot result in a discharge from the military (although an administrative discharge could follow a summary courts-martial).
General Courts-Martial: Maximum Punishment: Death, confinement for life, forfeiture of all pay and a Dishonorable Discharge (DD).
General courts-martial are convened by a “Convening Authority”, an officer vested with authority to order courts-martial. A Military Judge, a senior member of the service’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, presides over the trial. The accused has the right to be tried either by military judge alone or by “members”. The members of a courts-martial are officers, although in some cases senior enlisted members can be designated. Superficially, trial by members in a courts-martial appears to be similar to civilian juries; however, there are significant differences. First, unlike civilian juries, military juries do not have to be unanimous to convict or acquit. Second, rather than having twelve jurors, general courts-martial are only required to have five members and special courts-martial are only required to have three members.
General courts-martial also have their own unique procedural rules, the Rules for Courts-Martial (RCM) and their own rules of evidence, the Military Rules of Evidence (MRE). Any attorney, civilian or military, who represents service members before courts-martial must be familiar with these rules. The MRE’s are similar to the Federal Rules of Evidence. The RCM’s, however, differ significantly from the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Another unique feature of military justice is that in the military, the accused can elect to be sentenced either by the military judge or the members of the court.
Special Courts-Martial Maximum Punishment (Enlisted Personnel): Confinement for up to one year, forfeiture of two-thirds pay per month for up to one year and a Bad Conduct Discharge (BCD).
Special courts-martial function in much the same way as general courts-martial but are convened at a lower level and have fewer procedural safeguards. For example, there are fewer “members” of the court, frequently only three. There is no requirement for a preliminary hearing under Article 32 of the UCMJ or a review by a Staff Judge Advocate under Article 34 of the UCMJ.
Regardless of the type of court-martial involved, the consequences of a court-martial conviction are catastrophic and haunt those who are convicted for a lifetime. When charged with a violation of the UCMJ before a court-martial, a service member needs the best representation possible—contact us, we will provide that representation.
Appeals of Courts-Martial Convictions
Following a conviction and the imposition of sentence by a courts-martial, the conviction and sentence are reviewed by the officer who initially referred the case for trial. The officer exercising courts-martial jurisdiction can approve or disapprove the findings of the courts-martial, modify the finding (as long as they are not more severe) or order further proceedings. Once the convening authority takes action, the case can then be reviewed by the services, Court of Criminal Appeals. The Courts of Criminal Appeals are composed of senior members of the Judge Advocate’s Corp. Legal and factual errors are reviewed by the respective Court of Criminal Appeals which has the authority to reverse a conviction or sentence.
After a case has been reviewed within the military system, a convicted military member can appeal to the Court of Appeals of the Armed Forces.
Commander Boyle’s next to last assignment in the Navy was as the Executive Officer in an Appellate Defense Unit. In that capacity, he represented members of the Navy and Marine Corp before the Navy-Marine Corp Court of Criminal Appeals and the Court of Appeals of the Armed Forces. His last assignment was as a Commissioner on the Navy-Marine Court of Criminal Appeals. He is familiar with appeals and the operations of the Courts or Appeals. Commander Boyle is uniquely qualified to be your legal advocate in your criminal matter. Contact us today.
Many promising military careers end administratively through letters of reprimand, General Officer Letters of Reprimand (GOMOR), administrative discharges, or Show Cause Board or a Board of Inquiry. In some instances, the separation will be characterized as Other-than-Honorable (OTH) a characterization that carries with it long term adverse consequences.
Any adverse action contemplated by any of the military services has an administrative process to ensure fairness. We represent service members in all of these administrative matters. We also represent service members before the various Boards for Correction of Records, organizations created to correct errors by the military service, such unjust fitness reports or evaluation, unfairness in the promotion process, etc. There are also Discharge Review Boards that can change the characterization of a discharge (from an OTH or BCD to an Honorable Discharge, for example). In some cases, we may file a suit against the military service under the Administrative Procedures Act or the Tucker Act. These suits may be filed in the Court of Federal Claims or a U.S. District Court, depending on the circumstance.
The procedures, rules and regulations concerning these administrative actions are complex, and the violation of a procedural requirement can result in the loss of a case. The best way to avoid a procedural default and obtain the best result possible is to retain an attorney experienced in this nuanced area of the law.
If a proposed administrative action threatens your career, or if administrative action had already been taken and needs to be corrected, call or email us. We can help.