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Is the Military Justice System Fair?

Posted on January 26, 2019 in Uncategorized

Convening Court Martial

The military does not have permanent trial courts. Therefore, courts martial are convened or assembled on an as needed basis by military commanders. The UCMJ details which commanders may convene a courts martial. The commander with power to convene a court martial is called the convening authority. The convening authority determines the type of court martial that the accused will face, and the convening authority selects the court members (the military jury) that will hear the case and determine a sentence.1

Independent Judges and Defense Lawyers

A modern improvement in the American military justice system is that the trial judiciary and defense lawyers function independently from the prosecution and the command. Military judges are required to remain fair and impartial when presiding over courts martial. Military defense lawyers have the same duties as their civilian counterparts. They owe the outmost loyalty toward their clients and are supposed to zealously advocate on their behalf.2

Unlawful Command Influence

A common concern with the military justice system is that senior personnel will influence military jurors, witnesses, and others involved in the military justice process. This is known as unlawful command influence (UCI). UCI is often referred to as the mortal enemy of military justice.3 UCI calls into question the validity of the military judicial process, demoralizes military members and their confidence in the system and their command, and reduces public confidence in the military.4

While instances of unlawful command influence seldom arise, the military justice system has rules in order to limit its cancerous effects.5