What is a convening authority? Well, let's start with the basics, the terms involved:
Convening: (verb) coming or bringing together for a meeting or activity; assembling
Authority: (noun) the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience
A convening authority plays an important role within a court-martial. The individual with this title has certain legal powers, which are granted by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), i.e., the foundation of military law in the United States. The convening authority's rights are defined in article 22, article 23, and article 24 of the UCMJ, with each article focusing on a different type of court-martial. To learn more about the convening authority's specific rights and responsibilities, please scroll down.
What Is a Convening Authority?
What is a convening authority?
In the military justice system, a convening authority is an individual with several important legal powers.
How is the convening authority determined?
The person who convenes the court-martial becomes the convening authority. Typically this is the commanding officer of the accused, who will review the evidence and refer charges if he or she believes that a court-martial is warranted. Because there are no standing courts in the military justice system (like a superior court or district court), the court must always be created by the convening authority.
What are the rights of a convening authority?
The convening authority has several important rights within the court-martial process, including the following:
- Convening the court-martial
- Deciding which charges are filed
- Selecting the level of court-martial (summary, special, or general)
- Disposing of the case through other means when appropriate
- Selecting the members of a court-martial (i.e., the jurors)
- Approving experts and other witnesses
- Approving plea offers from the accused
- Receiving the findings and sentencing of the court-martial
- Approving or reducing the sentence
- Ordering a rehearing when necessary
What rights does the convening authority have regarding the sentencing of the court-martial?
At the end of the trial, the members report back to the convening authority and provide a recommended punishment. Because the convening authority is in command, he or she has the right to amend or overturn the sentence of a court-martial. However, if the accused is determined to be not guilty, the convening authority cannot set aside the verdict. In addition, the convening authority is not allowed to increase the severity of a recommended punishment. They can only lessen its severity.
Does the convening authority have to be a member of the military?
In almost all cases, the convening authority is a member of the military. However, six civilian officials also have the right to act as the convening authority: the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of the Navy, the Secretary of the Air Force, and the Secretary of Homeland Security.
If you or someone you know is preparing for a court-martial, pay attention to the convening authority—they have more rights than you may have realized! In addition, be sure to contact the top-quality lawyers at Newsom & Gapasin. Whether you're under investigation or facing a court-martial, 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!