Insubordinate Conduct Toward Warrant Officer, Noncommissioned Officer, or Petty Officer


2015 (September Term)

United States v. Sterling, 75 M.J. 407 (a lawful order must relate to military duty, which includes all activities reasonably necessary to accomplish a military mission, or safeguard or promote the morale, discipline, and usefulness of members of a command and directly connected with the maintenance of good order in the service). 

(the dictates of a person’s conscience, religion, or personal philosophy cannot justify or excuse the disobedience of an otherwise lawful order). 

(an order is presumed to be lawful, and the accused bears the burden of rebutting the presumption). 

(to be lawful, an order must (1) have a valid military purpose, and (2) be clear, specific, and narrowly drawn; in addition, the order must not conflict with the statutory or constitutional rights of the person receiving the order). 

(a staff sergeant’s order that appellant remove signs posting the words “no weapon formed against me shall prosper” from her shared workspace served a valid military purpose by maintaining good order and discipline, and was thus lawful, where staff sergeant wished to keep the shared workspace clean and did not like the tone of the posted signs, which could have been interpreted as combative). 

(while appellant’s posting of signs at her workspace, which stated that “no weapon formed against me shall prosper,” was claimed to be religiously motivated at least in part and thus fell within the RFRA’s expansive definition of “religious exercise,” appellant nonetheless failed to identify the sincerely held religious belief that made placing the signs important to her exercise of religion or how the removal of the signs substantially burdened her exercise of religion in some other way, and thus appellant was not entitled to the RFRA defense at her court-martial proceedings for violating the order to remove the signs). 

2008 (September Term)


United States v. Ranney, 67 M.J. 297 (Article 91, UCMJ, like Article 90, UCMJ, makes punishable disobedience only of lawful commands). 


(an order is presumed to be lawful, and the accused bears the burden of rebutting the presumption; nevertheless, an order purporting to regulate personal affairs is not lawful unless it has a military purpose).


(an order requiring appellant to cease his unprofessional relationship with a female Marine in the same multi-service detachment had a legally sufficient nexus to the military duty of maintaining the discipline and morale of the detachment to be presumptively lawful; the NCO who issued the order testified that he believed that the relationship would compromise the ability of the detachment’s NCOs to enforce various restrictions placed on junior Marine enlisted members and that although the relationship had not yet caused any specific problems within the unit, he believed it had the potential to become a problem over time; in the absence of any evidence that the order was in fact issued for a private end, and with a sufficient nexus between the mandate and a stated military duty – good order and discipline - extant in the record, the presumption that the order was lawful remained intact).

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