Yes, but only in rare cases.  Military personnel are subject to a different set of laws and standards from civilians, known as the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).  As a result, federal civil courts generally don’t have the power to review cases dealt with by military courts.

However, just as federal civil courts don?t have the power to use the UCMJ, military courts similarly cannot enforce laws reserved for federal civil courts.  Therefore, if a military court conviction violates a person?s rights under federal or constitutional law, a federal civil court may have the power to review the conviction.

In What Ways Can a Military Court Conviction Be Reviewed By a Federal Civil Court?

As stated above, a federal civil court can review a military court conviction if it deals with issues of federal or constitutional law.  Some of the more common examples include:

  • Petitioning for a writ of habeas corpus: arguing that a military conviction constitutes unlawful imprisonment
  • Petitioning for a writ of mandamus: trying to force a military court to do something under a direct order from the federal civil court
  • Enforcement of the Tucker Act: attempting to recover for lost pay or benefits as a result of a court martial conviction
  • Seeking injunctive relief: asking the federal civil court to force the military court to do something

Are There Any Requirements or Restrictions Before a Federal Civil Court Can Review a Military Court Conviction?

Yes.  A federal civil court cannot review a military court decision unless the person convicted has exhausted all possible remedies.  In other words, the person must have no other option to contest the military court?s decision besides a federal civil court.  An additional requirement for habeas corpus cases requires that the convicted person currently be imprisoned or in custody at the time they file their petition.

Are There Any Restrictions on a Federal Civil Court Once a Review Takes Place?

Yes.  Many federal courts believe that review of a military court conviction is strictly procedural.  In other words, as long the military court provided a fair and reasonable trial to the convicted person, these federal courts feel there is no need to review the decision.  

In contrast, other federal courts believe that they can review the decision itself, so long as it deals with issues of federal or constitutional law. 

How Can a Lawyer Help Me?

If you are looking to appeal a military conviction, you should contact a military law attorney immediately.  Due to the differences between military law and normal civil law, contacting a military law attorney is essentially in asserting your rights.  A lawyer can not only review the chances of your case being granted a federal civil court review, but also determine ways to appeal your conviction within the military court system.