How does the appellate process work?

Your appellate lawyer, whether it be an active duty JAG or a civilian attorney, is responsible for preparing a "brief" or written pleading, to present to the Court of Criminal Appeals. This is done by carefully reading the record of trial, or transcript, and identifying legal issues that may result in relief for the client. These legal issues can relate to the sufficiency of the evidence, legal errors committed by the military judge or defense counsel, or other grounds.

Once these issues are identified, your attorney will prepare a brief. The government then has attorneys who will prepare a brief opposing your brief. Both sides then have the opportunity to present oral argument to the Court of Criminal Appeals and/or provide additional material to the court. An attorney with experience in court-martial appeals can best advise you as to the legal issues that may be raised in your case.

If the Court of Criminal Appeals "affirms" or sustains your conviction in whole or in part, then the case can be appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces http://www.armfor.uscourts.gov. This court consists of 5 civilian judges who only hear appeals of court-martial convictions. Unlike the Courts of Criminal Appeals, this is not an automatic appeal, and your lawyer has to file a written petition requesting that the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces hear the case. Again, an attorney with experience in court-martial appeals can best advise you as to the legal issues that may be raised in your case.

Review by the Judge Advocate General

As noted above, if the sentence does not include confinement for more than one year, a punitive discharge or death, the appeal is then processed by the Judge Advocate General for your service. You have two years from the date the convening authority takes final action on your case to file an appeal with the Judge Advocate General. Great care should be taken in researching and drafting this appeal. An attorney with experience in court-martial appeals can best advise you as to the legal issues that may be raised in your case, and how to file such an appeal.

William E. Cassara- Military Law Attorney

Recent Accomplishments

Air Force Court Reverses Military Judge’s Dismissal of Sexual Assault Charge

By William Cassara | September 3, 2020

In January 2016, Senior Airman Harrington was at a party with several individuals. SSgt FC, LB, and TSgt KW were at the party as well. The group played several drinking games, including an “adult” version of Jenga. The game required individuals to perform tasks, such as removing articles of clothing […]

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Navy Criminal Appeals

Navy-Marine Corps Court Affirms Assault Conviction for HIV Positive Marine

By Beth Harvey | August 20, 2020

NMCCA issued an opinion in the case of US v Lewis this week. Sgt Lewis was convicted of three specifications of failure to obey a lawful order, one specification of sexual assault by causing bodily harm, one specification of indecent viewing, and one specification of assault consummated by a battery. […]

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caaf army

Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces Limits the Use of Prior Statements at Trial

By William Cassara | July 14, 2020

Military rules of evidence generally do not allow hearsay statements to be admitted at trial. Hearsay statements are statements made outside of court that are offered as proof of the substance of that statement. There are several exceptions to the hearsay rule, such as statements included in regular business records. […]

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