If a service member has been convicted at court-martial, the case can be appealed. In many cases, the appeal is automatic. Spotting errors that occurred at the trial level is crucial to a successful appeal. We have successfully represented a number of inmates on appeal. We have experience before all service courts of appeals, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and the United States Supreme Court.
Our founding attorney, William E. Cassara, has represented numerous clients in all phases of the appellate process, frequently obtaining extremely favorable results. He has represented members of all military services, both on appeal and through federal litigation. He has a significant track record, and has been asked to teach classes to military appellate lawyers.
Appealing A Court-Martial Conviction
A large portion of our practice is representing military members who have been convicted at court-martial. The rules governing court-martial appeals are different for every service and complicated. If you or a loved one has been convicted at court-martial, you need an experienced court-martial appeals lawyer to assist you.
Probably the most frequent call we receive is from a family member whose loved one has just been convicted at court-martial. They are, of course, heartbroken, and want to know what they can do. What follows is a summary of the court-martial appeals process.
Sentence of one year or more confinement or a punitive discharge.
Every military service (Army, Air Force, Navy-Marine Corps, Coast Guard) has what is known as a Court of Criminal Appeals. These courts (except the Coast Guard) are made up of active duty military judges who sit in "panels" of three, and whose sole reason for being is to hear appeals of courts-martial from their particular service, where the sentence includes confinement of one year or more, or a punitive (dishonorable, bad Conduct, dismissal) as part of the punishment. In these cases, the service member has what is known as an "appeal of right." In other words, regardless of whether the service member pleaded guilty or not guilty, if his or her sentence includes confinement for one year or more and/or a punitive discharge, his or her case will automatically be heard by that service's Court of Criminal Appeals
The lawyer will review the Record of Trial — provided by the court reporter — and file a brief with the Court of Criminal Appeals, outlining any errors that occurred at trial that may have denied you a fair trial. They will then file a brief with the court. The government lawyers will then file a brief in response. Your lawyer can then file a reply brief, ask for "oral argument" before the court, or rest on the brief they already filed.
The above process is, of course, just a brief summary of what happens. In reality, it is much more complicated. You need an attorney who is experienced in court-martial appeals. Mr. Cassara has represented hundreds of service members on appeal of their court-martial convictions.
Sentence of less than a year confinement and no punitive discharge.
If the accused service member does not receive a year confinement or a punitive discharge, then his or her case will be reviewed by the office of the judge advocate general of the specific service. Unlike the above scenario, the individual will not be appointed a military lawyer to represent him or her, although he or she can retain civilian counsel. If he or she does not retain civilian counsel, the case will be reviewed for errors by a lawyer in the office of the judge advocate general, who will determine whether there were any errors at trial that prejudiced the accused.
Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.
If a service member has appealed the court-martial conviction to the Court of Criminal Appeals, and lost, he or she can appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (C.A.A.F.) C.A.A.F. is a five-member court consisting of civilian judges who hear court-martial appeals from all services. Unlike the Courts of Criminal Appeals, an appeal to C.A.A.F. is not an appeal "of right." In other words, C.A.A.F. does not have to hear your case. As such, the first step is to file a brief with C.A.A.F. requesting that they review your case and, if they agree, a second brief is filed and your attorney then appears before the Court for "oral argument."
If you or a loved one has been convicted at court-martial, schedule a free consultation with a Georgia court martial appeal attorney.