The Path to Appealing a Court-Martial – Part I

Convictions by a special court-martial or general court-martial are automatically appealed to a service Court of Criminal Appeals if the sentence includes confinement for one year or more, a dishonorable or bad-conduct discharge, dismissal (in the case of a commissioned officer, midshipman, or cadet,) or a death sentence. Unless the service member convicted at  court-martial waives his or her right to appeal, military appellate courts are required to review cases over which they have jurisdiction. The exception to this is death; a service member may not waive his right to a court-martial appeal when a death sentence is adjudged.

A service member who waives his or her right to pursue a court-martial appeal will still have their case reviewed pursuant to Article 69 of the UCMJ by the service Judge Advocate General (JAG) for possible referral to the appellate courts and/or legal errors.

Each military service has established a Court of Criminal Appeals which is composed of one or more panels, with each panel including at least three judges. For the purpose of reviewing court-martial appeals, the Court may sit in either panels or as a whole; if they sit as a whole, the Court may reconsider any decision of a panel. Judges assigned to a Court of Criminal Appeals may be commissioned officers or civilians (in the case of the Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals.) Generally speaking, these are senior lawyers and judges. The JAG of each Service names one of the appellate military judges of that Service’s Court of Criminal Appeals as chief judge – the responsibilities of which include assigning appellate judges to the various panels and deciding which judge will act as the senior judge on each panel.

If you have been convicted at court martial and need a court martial attorney contact Mr. Cassara for a free consultation.


William E. Cassara- Military Law Attorney

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