In order for a court-martial to take place, someone must convene it. Only a select group of people are allowed to do this, including the President, the Secretary of Defense, and specific commanding officers. Amongst many other duties, the convening authority will decide what charges to refer and which type of court-martial is appropriate: summary, special, or general. Today we're discussing the rights and role of the highest court level's CA: the general court-martial convening authority . . .
General Court-Martial Convening Authority
As we mentioned above, the general court-martial convening authority's role begins with the convening of the court-martial. Often the disciplinary matter will have been forwarded by a subordinate commander who doesn't have the ability to order a court-martial into being.
The convening authority may only refer a charge to a court-martial if there are reasonable grounds to believe the accused has committed the crime with which he or she is charged. In addition, the offense must be listed in the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Before the convening authority refers the case, they will also receive pretrial advice from the staff judge advocate (a senior legal advisor within the command).
The general court-martial convening authority has many responsibilities during the course of the investigation and trial, including all of the following:
- After the investigation, the resulting charges and report should be forwarded to the general court-martial convening authority for review within 8 days after the accused is arrested or confined.
- The convening authority will personally select the panel members (which are equivalent to jurors in a civilian trial) of the court-martial using the criteria in UCMJ Article 25.
- Only a general court-martial convening authority may grant testimonial immunity, following the rules outlined in the Manual for Courts-Martial (MCM).
- If, following inquiry, the convening authority believes that the accused suffers from a mental disease or defect, rendering him or her mentally incompetent to stand trial, they must commit the accused to the custody of the Attorney General.
- The general court-martial convening authority may approve or disapprove any part of the sentence (except for a death sentence), but they may not impose a harsher punishment.
The convening authority for a general court-martial is typically a general officer who is the commander of a post, division, or separate brigade. This differs from summary court-martial convening authorities (who are normally battalion or squadron commanders) and special court-martial convening authorities (who are normally brigade or wing commanders). The higher you go up the military justice chain, the more powers the convening authority has, while retaining the powers of lower authorities. Thus, a general court-martial convening authority also has the ability to convene special and summary courts-martial.
If you or someone you know is preparing for a court-martial, contact the top-quality lawyers at Newsom & Gapasin. Whether you're under investigation, facing a court-martial, or seeking an appeal, our experienced and aggressive law firm would be happy to help. We focus on winning tough cases, some of which have been reported on by national media outlets like CNN, Fox News, Time, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. For more information, please give us a call at 1-(888) 919-8265 , send an e-mail to [email protected], or click here to contact us online. We look forward to hearing from you!