Separate body of law and procedure that applies almost exclusively to persons serving in the armed forces.
As the Supreme Court noted in Parker v. Levy
After World War II, revisions were made to the Uniform Code of Military Justice
Except during wartime, the jurisdiction of the military justice system is confined to military personnel. Military jurisdiction is not exclusive, however, and civilian authorities have concurrent jurisdiction with the military over service members who commit nonmilitary crimes both in the United States and abroad, under the authority of status of forces agreements, treaties, or international agreements concluded with host countries.
Jurisdiction is limited exclusively to criminal matters, primarily those defined in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. In order to be the subject of an article 15 proceeding, the matter must be a crime under the military code. Punishments for such infractions are limited by a table of maximum punishments and may be informal or formal. The severity of punishment that can be imposed is also affected by the rank of the officer conducting the procedure. A service member need not accept trial by nonjudicial punishment but may choose to do so because the penalties possible are limited and trial of a minor infraction by a commander under article 15 will bar retrial by court-martial, a limitation that acts like double jeopardy.
There are three categories of courts-martial: summary, special, and general. A summary court-martial is provided for the trial of enlisted personnel only. It is presided over by a nonlawyer judge who serves, as the Supreme Court noted in Middendorf v. Henry
An accused person tried by either a special or general court-martial is entitled to be represented by assigned military counsel and enjoys rights against self-incrimination, exclusionary rule protection, and other protections similar to those enjoyed by civilians. Those safeguards are provided for by the military code. In Parker v. Levy, the Supreme Court recognized that due process protections for service members are provided by Congress and therefore are statutory, not constitutional in origin.
Commanders convene courts-martial and select court members, and the results of the trial are a recommendation to the commander on which he or she acts. The commander must accept a finding of not guilty but has discretion to disapprove all or any portion of a guilty verdict and may reduce, mitigate, or disapprove altogether a sentence or portion of a sentence. A unique problem growing out of the role of the commander in military justice is that of unlawful command influence or the improper interference by a military superior in the exercise of independent judgment by those charged with making decisions about the trial of service members accused of crimes. Clear regulatory prohibitions and the provision of a qualified, legally trained cadre of judge-advocates (or military lawyers) works to assure the functioning of a military justice system that meets the requirements of the U.S. Constitution and the expectations of fair treatment for those who serve in the nation’s armed forces.
Bishop, Joseph W., Jr. Justice Under Fire: A Study of Military Law. New York: Charterhouse, 1974. Lurie, Jonathan. Arming Military Justice: Origins of the United States Court of Military Appeals, 1775-1950. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1992. _______. Pursuing Military Justice: The History of the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, 1951-1980. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1998. Shanor, Charles A., and L. Lynn Hogue. Military Law in a Nutshell. 2d ed. St. Paul, Minn.: West Publishing, 1996.
Certiorari, writ of
Counsel, right to
Military and the Court
Quirin, Ex parte