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Military and Native American Criminal Justice - Military Appeals Courts

judges civilian review originally

The original 1951 UCMJ codes created a civilian appeals court to hear military cases called the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. The court originally had three judges and later expanded to five. Like other federal judge positions, the U.S. president appoints these judges and the Senate approves them. This court hears cases sent by JAG, all death sentence cases, and some appeals submitted by those convicted in lower courts. It has worldwide jurisdiction since cases can come from any place around the globe where U.S. troops are deployed.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces serves as a civilian safeguard on the military judicial process. Its decisions may be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. A major difference between this court and civilian courts is that the military judges do not have lifetime appointments. Instead they serve fifteen-year terms.

Congress passed the Military Justice Act of 1968 creating intermediate appellate military courts located in each military service. Originally called the Courts of Military Review, they were renamed Courts of Criminal Appeals in 1995. JAG appoints the judges, who are trained attorneys, not commanders, and who do not have fixed terms. The appellate courts review all cases where the accused was sentenced to over a year of confinement, was given the death penalty, lost his or her rank as a commissioned officer, or was discharge dishonorably. The courts can drop the charges, reduce the sentence, or order a new trial.


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