Since October 31, 1952, the Court has been located in Judiciary Square
in the federal courthouse at 450 E Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20442-0001.
The courthouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places,
was erected in 1910, and was formerly the home of the United States
Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Persons interested
in visiting the courthouse should contact the Clerk of the Court.
Court Proceedings in Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Courthouse (PDF)
Court Brochure (PDF)
Courts-martial are judicial proceedings conducted by the armed forces.
The Continental Congress first authorized the use of courts-martial
in 1775. From the time of the Revolutionary War through the middle of
the twentieth century, courts-martial were governed by the Articles
of War and the Articles for the Government of the Navy.
1920, court-martial convictions were reviewed either by a commander
in the field or by the President, depending on the severity of the sentence
or the rank of the accused. The absence of formal review received critical
attention during World War I, and the Army created an internal legal
review process for a limited number of cases. Following the war, in
the Act of June 4, 1920, Congress required the Army to establish Boards
of Review, consisting of three lawyers, to consider cases involving
death, dismissal of an officer, an unsuspended dishonorable discharge,
or confinement in a penitentiary, with limited exceptions. The legislation
further required legal review of other cases in the Office of the Judge
military justice system under the Articles of War and Articles for the
Government of the Navy received significant attention during World War
II and its immediate aftermath. During the war, in which over 16 million
persons served in the American armed forces, the military services held
over 1.7 million courts-martial. Many of these proceedings were conducted
without lawyers acting as presiding officers or counsel. Studies conducted
by the military departments and the civilian bar identified a variety
of problems in the administration of military justice during the war,
including the potential for improper command influence.
1948, Congress enacted significant reforms in the Articles of War, including
creation of a Judicial Council of three general officers to consider
cases involving sentences of death, life imprisonment, or dismissal
of an officer, as well as cases referred to the Council by a Board of
Review or the Judge Advocate General. During the same period, Congress
placed the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force under the newly
created Department of Defense. The first Secretary of Defense, James
Forrestal, created a committee under the chairmanship of Professor Edmund
Morgan to study the potential for unifying and revising the services’
disparate military justice systems under a single code.
committee recommended a unified system applicable to the Army, Navy,
Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. The committee also recommended
that qualified attorneys serve as presiding officers and counsel, subject
to limited exceptions. Numerous other changes were proposed by the committee
to enhance the rights of servicemembers in the context of the disciplinary
needs of the armed forces. The recommendations included creation of
an independent civilian appellate court.
committee’s recommendations, as revised by Congress, became the
Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), enacted on May 5, 1950. Article
67 of the UCMJ established the Court of Military Appeals as a three-judge
civilian court. The Report of the House Armed Services Committee accompanying
the legislation emphasized that the new Court would be “completely
removed from all military influence of persuasion.” The legislation
became effective on May 31, 1951. In 1968, Congress redesignated the
Court as the United States Court of Military Appeals.
initially established, the Court was the final authority on cases arising
under the military justice system, except for a limited number of cases
considered by the Supreme Court of the United States under collateral
proceedings, such as through writs of habeas corpus. In 1983, Congress
authorized direct appeal to the Supreme Court of cases decided by the
U.S. Court of Military Appeals, except for cases involving denial of
a petition for discretionary review.
1989, Congress enacted comprehensive legislation to enhance the effectiveness
and stability of the Court. The legislation increased the Court’s
membership to five judges, consistent with the American Bar Association’s
Standards for Court Organization. In 1994, Congress gave the Court its
current designation, the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed