Judge Advocate General's Corps

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The Judge Advocate General's Corps (JAG Corps) is the branch or specialty of a military concerned with military justice and military law. Officers serving in a JAG Corps are typically called judge advocates . Only the chief attorney within each branch is referred to as the Judge Advocate General ; however, individual JAG Corps officers are colloquially known as JAGs.

Military justice is the body of laws and procedures governing members of the armed forces. Many nation-states have separate and distinct bodies of law that govern the conduct of members of their armed forces. Some states use special judicial and other arrangements to enforce those laws, while others use civilian judicial systems. Legal issues unique to military justice include the preservation of good order and discipline, the legality of orders, and appropriate conduct for members of the military. Some states enable their military justice systems to deal with civil offenses committed by their armed forces in some circumstances.

A judge advocate is an officer of the court or judicial officer, usually associated with the armed forces.

A Judge Advocate General is a principal judicial officer for a military branch or the armed forces at large, typically the most senior judge advocate.

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Judge Advocates serve primarily as legal advisors to the command to which they are assigned. In this function, they can also serve as the personal legal advisor to their commander. Their advice may cover a wide range of issues dealing with administrative law, government contracting, civilian and military personnel law, law of war and international relations, environmental law, etc. They also serve as prosecutors for the military when conducting courts-martial. In the United States military, they are charged with both the defense and prosecution of military law as provided in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Highly experienced officers of the JAG Corps often serve as military judges in courts-martial and courts of inquiry.

Environmental law rules of law, promoting the protection of the natural environment

Environmental law, also known as environmental and natural resources law, is a collective address environmental pollution. A related but distinct set of regulatory regimes, now strongly influenced by environmental legal principles, focus on the management of specific natural resources, such as forests, minerals, or fisheries. Other areas, such as environmental impact assessment, may not fit neatly into either category, but are nonetheless important components of environmental law.

A court-martial or court martial is a military court or a trial conducted in such a court. A court-martial is empowered to determine the guilt of members of the armed forces subject to military law, and, if the defendant is found guilty, to decide upon punishment. In addition, courts-martial may be used to try prisoners of war for war crimes. The Geneva Convention requires that POWs who are on trial for war crimes be subject to the same procedures as would be the holding military's own forces. Finally, courts-martial can be convened for other purposes, such as dealing with violations of martial law, and can involve civilian defendants.

In civil proceedings and criminal prosecutions under the common law, a defendant may raise a defense in an attempt to avoid criminal or civil liability. Besides contesting the accuracy of any allegation made against them in a criminal or civil proceeding, a defendant may also make allegations against the prosecutor or plaintiff or raise a defense, arguing that, even if the allegations against the defendant are true, the defendant is nevertheless not liable.

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Judge Advocate of the Fleet

The Judge Advocate of the Fleet was an appointed civilian judge who was responsible for the supervision and superintendence of the court martial system in the Royal Navy from 1663 to 2008.

In the United Kingdom, the Judge Advocate General and Judge Martial of all the Forces is a judge responsible for the court-martial process within the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force. As such the post has existed since 2008; prior to this date the Judge Advocate General's authority related to the Army and the RAF while the Judge Advocate of the Fleet was his equivalent with regard to the Royal Navy.

Army Legal Services Branch

The Army Legal Services Branch (ALS) is a branch of the Adjutant-General's Corps (AGC) in the British Army. Before 1992, the branch existed as the independent Army Legal Corps (ALC).

Military law in the United States

The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), is the primary legal code through which all internal military justice matters of the United States are governed. The UCMJ applies to all members of the Military of the United States, including military retirees as well as members of other federal uniformed services (such as NOAA Corps and the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps) when attached to the military. The UCMJ was created by an act of the United States Congress in 1951 in order to establish relatively consistent systems of military justice in all branches of the nation's armed forces. However, in cases involving very minor disciplinary infractions, each service has somewhat differing procedures. Such cases are governed by UCMJ Article 15 and are called non-judicial punishment, Captain's Mast (Navy), or Office Hours (Marines).

The Uniform Code of Military Justice is the foundation of military law in the United States. It was established by the United States Congress in accordance with the authority given by the United States Constitution in Article I, Section 8, which provides that "The Congress shall have Power....To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval forces".

The United States Armed Forces are the military forces of the United States of America. It consists of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. The president of the United States is the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces and forms military policy with the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS), both federal executive departments, acting as the principal organs by which military policy is carried out. All five armed services are among the seven uniformed services of the United States.

NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, known informally as the NOAA Corps, is one of seven federal uniformed services of the United States, and operates under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a scientific agency overseen by the Department of Commerce. The NOAA Corps is made up of scientifically and technically trained officers and is the smallest of the U.S. uniformed services. It is one of only two––the other being the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps––that consists only of commissioned officers, with no enlisted or warrant officer ranks.

In addition to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, personnel are subject to the terms of the Constitution, other federal laws, and individual state laws where applicable (e.g., whenever the service member is in the United States, unless on a military base with exclusive federal jurisdiction). When a violation of the UCMJ occurs, the matter is handled by the command of the service member. When a violation of a federal or state law occurs, the matter may be handled by local, state, or federal authorities.

Federal jurisdiction refers to the legal scope of the government's powers in the United States of America. See the 1962 Federal Report titled "JURISDICTION OVER FEDERAL AREAS WITHIN THE STATES".

Court-martial

The forum through which criminal cases are tried in the United States' armed forces is the court-martial. This term also applies to the panel of military officers selected to serve as the finders of fact or "jury". In other words, they fulfil the role of a civilian jury in trying criminal cases. The Uniform Code of Military Justice outlines three distinct types of courts-martial.

Jury sworn body of people convened to render a verdict officially submitted to them by a court, or to set a penalty or judgment

A jury is a sworn body of people convened to render an impartial verdict officially submitted to them by a court, or to set a penalty or judgment. Modern juries tend to be found in courts to ascertain the guilt or lack thereof in a crime. In Anglophone jurisdictions, the verdict may be guilty or not guilty. The old institution of grand juries still exists in some places, particularly the United States, to investigate whether enough evidence of a crime exists to bring someone to trial.

General court-martial

  • Jurisdiction over crimes committed by any person, including civilians, covered by military law at the time the crime was committed
  • Forum for most serious charges such as sexual assault, drug distribution, or desertion
  • Officers detailed to the court are defense counsel, trial counsel (prosecutor) and military judge
  • A court martial panel (or "jury") comprises five or more service members, at least one-third of whom are enlisted if requested by an enlisted accused
  • Accused service member may request trial by judge alone in lieu of trial by a panel of members, except where the death penalty may be adjudged
  • Maximum sentence that a general court-martial can impose is the maximum specified in the specific UCMJ Article (crime) the accused is convicted of, including death

Special court-martial

  • Jurisdiction over crimes committed by any person, including civilians, covered by military law at the time the crime was committed
  • Forum for intermediate offenses such as battery, assault, larceny (theft), minor drug-related offenses, unauthorized absence, disrespect, disobedience, and similar crimes
  • Officers detailed to the court are defense counsel, trial counsel (prosecutor), and military judge
  • Special court-martial panel comprises three or more members, at least one third of whom are enlisted if requested by an enlisted accused
  • Accused service member may request trial by judge alone in lieu of trial by a panel of members
  • Regardless of what crime is charged at a special court-martial, the maximum sentence that can be adjudged is 12 months' confinement, forfeiture of two-thirds pay for 12 months, reduction in rank, bad conduct discharge, and a fine
  • A special court-martial cannot dismiss an officer

Summary court-martial

  • Jurisdiction over crimes committed by enlisted personnel only
  • Forum for minor offenses such as petty theft
  • Summary court-martial comprises a single officer whose pay grade should not be below O-3
  • Maximum sentence is one month's confinement, forfeiture of two-thirds pay, reduction in rank to E-1
  • Summary courts-martial may not adjudge punishments of confinement with hard labor or reduction except the next inferior pay grade for accused who are in the pay grade of E-5 or greater
  • Can be refused by the accused, in which case the matter is normally referred to a special court-martial

Appeals process

The Uniform Code of Military Justice provides for several tiers of appeal. All cases are reviewed by the commander convening the court (the convening authority ) who, as a matter of command prerogative, may approve, disapprove, or modify the findings and/or sentence. The commander may not approve a finding of guilty for an offense of which the accused was acquitted nor increase the sentence adjudged. A convicted service member may submit a request for leniency to the convening authority prior to the convening authority's approval of the court-martial sentence.

Each military service has a Court of Criminal Appeals, which is composed of panels of three appellate military judges:

These courts review all cases in which the approved sentence includes death, a punitive discharge, or confinement for at least a year, and all cases referred to it by the service Judge Advocate General. The court of criminal appeals "may affirm only such findings of guilty and the sentence or such part of the sentence, as it finds correct in law and fact and determines, on the basis of the entire record, should be approved. In considering the record, it may weigh the evidence, judge the credibility of witnesses, and determine controverted questions of fact, recognizing that the trial court saw and heard the witnesses". Article 66(c), UCMJ.

The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) consists of five civilian judges appointed by the President of the United States, with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate, to 15-year terms. The CAAF must review cases from all of the military services in which the court of criminal appeals has affirmed a death sentence, cases the Judge Advocates General order sent to the court, and cases appealed from the court of criminal appeals by the accused in which the CAAF finds good cause to grant the petition for review. Unlike the service courts of criminal appeals, the CAAF "shall take action only with respect to matters of law". Article 67(c), UCMJ. Decisions of the CAAF are "subject to review by the Supreme Court by writ of certiorari. Article 67a, UCMJ; this merely confirms Article III, Section 2 of the United States Constitution, granting the Supreme Court appellate jurisdiction in all U.S. cases where it does not have original jurisdiction.

Cases not meeting the criteria for review by the service courts of criminal appeals are reviewed in the office of the service Judge Advocate General. Article 69, UCMJ. A death sentence "may not be executed until approved by the President. In such a case, the President may commute, remit, or suspend the sentence, or any part thereof, as he sees fit. That part of the sentence providing for death may not be suspended". Article 71(a), UCMJ.

Other practice areas

Besides prosecuting, defending, and presiding over courts-martial, military attorneys advise commanders on issues involving a number of areas of law. Depending on the service, these areas may include the law of war, the rules of engagement and their interpretation, and other operational law issues, government contract law, administrative law, labor law, environmental law, international law, claims against the government (such as under the Federal Tort Claims Act), and information law (such as requests for information in the possession of the military under the Freedom of Information Act). Military attorneys also advise individual service members, military retirees, and their families regarding personal civil legal problems they may have, including drafting wills, fending off creditors, and reviewing leases.

Special training

In addition to being licensed attorneys in any state or territory of the United States, all military attorneys undergo specialized training to qualify as judge advocates, allowing them to act as trial or defense counsel at military courts-martial. Specialized training takes place at one of three military law centers:

Most Judge Advocates will take additional classes at more than one of these facilities during their time in the JAG Corps.

Naval Justice School is the primary training center for Navy, Marine and Coast Guard JAs.

The Army's JAG School is the only military law center that has full American Bar Association accreditation. Its graduate course, leading to a Master of Laws degree, is open to Judge Advocates from all service branches.

Upon completion of their legal training at the Army's JAG School, graduates attend six weeks of Direct Commissioned Office's training at Fort Benning, Georgia. This course emphasizes infantry officer leaderships skills and combat training.

See also

United States

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