You may fantasize about court-martialing your commanding officer for denying your last leave request, but unfortunately for you, only very specific parties have the power to convene (i.e., call up or summon) a court-martial. So if you’re relatively low within the military chain of command, you simply don’t have the authority to convene a court-martial. Who can convene a court-martial? Below we discuss the individuals who have this right as well as the role of the convening authority.
Who Can Convene a Court-Martial?
So who can convene a court-martial? As you likely know, courts-martial come in three varieties: general, special, and summary. You have to look at each type of court if you’re wondering who can convene a court-martial.
A number of government officials may convene general courts-martial. These include the President of the United States, the Secretary of Defense, and the secretaries of each branch of the military. However, the vast majority of general courts-martial are convened by some form of commanding officer (CO). This can be your own CO or that of a fleet, Army group, division, air wing, or other recognized military group, such as a specified or unified combatant command. The President and the secretary of your branch of the military also have the power to designate a specific CO to convene a general court-martial.
It is important to note that COs who make accusations may not convene related general courts-martial. In such a case, one of their superiors takes on the role instead. In addition, note that anyone with the power to convene a general court-martial may also convene a special or summary court-martial.
First, as we just mentioned, anyone who can convene a general court-martial can also convene a special court-martial. In addition, many COs have the right. This includes the following:
- COs of a district, garrison, fort, camp, station, base, etc. with on-duty Army and Air Force members
- COs of brigades, regiments, detached battalions, and corresponding units of the Army
- COs of wings, groups, or separate squadrons of the Air Force
- COs of naval or Coast Guard vessels, shipyards, bases, or stations
- COs of Marine brigades, regiments, detached battalions, or corresponding units
- COs of Marine barracks, wings, groups, separate squadrons, stations, bases, or air fields with on-duty Marine Corps members
Finally, the secretary of any branch of the military can empower a CO with the right to convene a special court-martial.
As with general courts-martial, accusers may not convene trials.
Of course, anyone who can convene a general or special court-martial may also convene a summary court-martial. In addition, the following commanding officers may convene summary courts-martial:
- COs of detached companies or other detachments of the Army
- COs of detached squadrons or other detachments of the Air Force
Finally, a secretary of any branch of the military can give commanding officers and officers in charge of any other command the right to convene summary courts-martial.
The Convening Authority
In all courts-martial, the individual with the legal power to convene the trial is referred to as the convening authority. This person also determines whether the case will go to trial or investigation. Significantly, they are responsible for appointing the panel of members who will pass judgment on the accused. Convening authorities may also overturn sentences or amend them at their discretion. Although they can’t overturn not-guilty findings or mandate harsher sentences, they have various powers concerning new trial information and appeals. To ensure that you receive a fair trial and to safeguard your rights, we urge you to retain the services of an experienced attorney.
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-UCMJ. You could also send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to contact us online. We look forward to hearing from you!