Military Law: Federal Civil Court Review of Military Court Conviction Lawyers

Where You Need a Lawyer:

(This may not be the same place you live)

At No Cost! 

 What Is Military Law?

Military law governs the military establishment of a government. Unlike civilian criminal law, military law is entirely disciplinary by nature. Civil courts recognize it as part of the United States body of law as a whole. Every member of the armed forces is always subject to military law.

How Does Military Law Differ from Civilian Law?

A person who joins the United States Military is subject to a different legal system.

A major difference between the United States civilian justice system and the Armed Forces system is their respective purposes. Justice is the purpose of the U.S. civil legal system. The purpose of the military legal system is to provide military commanders with tools to enforce good order and discipline. Lateness is not a crime for civilians, but it is a crime for military personnel.

Where Do the Grounds for Military Law Come From?

Historically, military law precedes the Constitution of the United States. As the supreme law of the land, the Constitution remains the primary source of military law.

The following are other sources of military law:

  • International law affecting the law of war from treaties
  • Uniform Code of Military Justice
  • Executive orders
  • Service regulations
  • Usages and customs of the Armed Forces and of war
  • Military court decisions

Disciplinary Actions

There are several methods the military uses to maintain good order and discipline, not all of which require a hearing:

  • Reprimands and Admonitions
  • Counseling’s
  • Unfavorable Information Files
  • Administrative Demotions
  • Administrative Discharges
  • Court Martial

Can a Federal Civil Court Ever Review a Military Court Conviction?

In rare cases, yes. In the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), military personnel are subject to different laws and standards than civilians. Therefore, federal civil courts do not review military court cases.

However, military courts cannot enforce laws reserved for federal civil courts, just as federal civil courts cannot use the UCMJ. 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?

A federal civil court may review a military court conviction if it involves federal or constitutional law issues.

Here are a few examples:

  • 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 convicted person has exhausted all available remedies. Therefore, the person must have no other option than to appeal the military court’s decision to a federal civil court. When filing a habeas corpus petition, the convicted person must also be imprisoned or in custody at the time of filing.

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

Yes. In many federal courts, reviewing a military court conviction is strictly procedural. Federal courts are not required to review a military court’s decision so long as it provides a fair and reasonable trial to the convicted person.

As long as the decision deals with federal or constitutional issues, other federal courts believe they can review the decision itself.

Do I Have the Right to an Attorney?

You have the right to an attorney during court-martial proceedings and throughout the appeal process. Your defense attorney can either be a military judge advocate or a civilian lawyer.

How Does the Military Court of Appeals Review My Case?

When reviewing your case, the court will look for any legal errors made in deciding facts or the level of punishment imposed by the court-martial. The court can change your sentence, but it cannot make it more severe.

The court will also review the facts and evidence presented to determine whether you were proven guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

You will also be evaluated if you plead guilty and receive a punitive discharge, a year’s confinement, or more. This is to ensure you really believed you were guilty and did not indicate your innocence during the proceedings.

Judge advocates review court-martial convictions with lesser sentences than those described above.

If the appeal to your branch’s military appeals court is unsuccessful, the next step is to consider an appeal to the Armed Forces Court of Appeals.

Can I Appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces?

Not all cases can be heard by the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. You have an absolute right to appeal to this court if you have been sentenced to death. If your case should be reviewed, your attorney must file a petition to the court showing “good cause” (meaning, a good reason).

The court can hear your case, or it can be denied. The court must hear any cases sent for review by the Judge Advocate General (JAG). When a legal error or an inappropriate sentence is imposed, the JAG will order a review.

Your case can be sent to the court by the Judge Advocate General, but this request is very rare.

The Court of Appeals has a limited scope of review. There is only one thing it can do: look for legal errors made by the military appeals court. There is no need to examine the facts and identify any factual errors. The court will only look at whether the military appeals court applied the law incorrectly to your case.

Can I Appeal to the United States Supreme Court?

The U.S. Supreme Court reviews only a handful of cases that it receives each year, and the Court has tremendous discretion about which cases it will choose to hear. The Supreme Court has the discretion to hear your case even if you have been sentenced to death. Not all decisions of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Can I Do Anything About Putting Off a Civil Trial While I Am on Active Duty?

While on active duty, you may be able to delay certain kinds of trials. For instance, if your spouse is seeking a divorce, you can ask the court to delay the proceedings as long as you can show that your active duty makes it impossible to attend the trial.

Another aspect of your protection is that a lender or bank cannot foreclose on any of your property while you are away on active duty and for up to three months afterward. However, the fact that you are on active duty negatively affects your ability to repay any debts you owe.

How Can a Lawyer Help Me?

Contact a military law attorney immediately if you intend to appeal a military conviction. Due to the differences between military and normal civil law, contacting a government attorney essentially asserts your rights. It is possible to appeal your conviction within the military court system and receive a federal civil court review by a lawyer.

Save Time and Money - Speak With a Lawyer Right Away

  • Buy one 30-minute consultation call or subscribe for unlimited calls
  • Subscription includes access to unlimited consultation calls at a reduced price
  • Receive quick expert feedback or review your DIY legal documents
  • Have peace of mind without a long wait or industry standard retainer
  • Get the right guidance - Schedule a call with a lawyer today!

16 people have successfully posted their cases

Find a Lawyer