Vanderbilt Law Review


Robert E. Quinn

First Page



The United States Court of Military Appeals has been referred to as the "most vital element" in the reformation and unification of military criminal law brought about by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It represents a further extension of civilian control over the military--a concept long deemed vital to the American framework of democratic government.

The Court is not faced with an easy task, and no one is more aware of this than the judges themselves. Like all institutions established as a result of reform movements, its activities are subject to close public scrutiny. The work of the Court is being analyzed on the one hand by segments of the civilian bar who have acquired a distrust of the military courts-martial system; it is being carefully watched on the other by those of the military who were apprehensive of its existence from the beginning. It is almost axiomatic that what pleases one group will almost certainly not please the other.

It should not be concluded, however, that everyone interested in the Court's work can be classified as being basically motivated either for or against the Court. There are, I am sure, many who feel that its establishment was a necessary step in the improvement of the scheme of military justice, but who will base their final judgment upon its work unswayed by preconceived prejudices. It is my hope that the legal journals will be numbered among this group and that they will do for our Court what they have long done for the American judiciary--provide an interested but critical forum for analysis of its work.

Everyone, I am sure, realizes that the proper operation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice does not depend solely upon this Court. The cases considered here constitute but a small fraction of the total. The most that we can do is mark out the boundaries and build the framework around the foundation provided by Congress in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Although America prides itself on its government by laws, not men, the laws are of little avail if they are not properly applied at the point of realistic contact with those governed.