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

Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces Reverses Navy-Marine Corps Court on Hazing Case

By William Cassara | May 14, 2021

The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) recently published its opinion in United States v. Mader reversing a Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals decision in a case involving an NCO’s charged hazing of junior Marines. A Sergeant with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines was executing orders out of […]

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air force drug conviction

CAAF Reverses Army Court on Hearsay Ruling

By William Cassara | April 30, 2021

In June 2020, the Army Court of Criminal Appeals issued an opinion in United States v. Henry affirming the military judge’s decision to exclude four hearsay statements made by the alleged victim and her son. We discussed that opinion here. The government appealed the Army Court decision to the Court […]

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William E. Cassara, Military Law Attorney

Army Court Reverses Conviction – ACCA Opinion U.S. v. Hannah

By William Cassara | April 24, 2021

We are thrilled to report that the Army Court of Criminal Appeals set aside and dismissed our client’s convictions for two specifications of sexual assault.  We argued that the military judge improperly created the appearance of bias in favor of the government because of her inappropriate conduct toward our client’s […]

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