Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



The Articles of War and the Articles for the Government of the Navy have always constituted the code of criminal law and criminal procedure for the Armed Forces. In contrast to the law governing civilians, the punishments imposable are not specified in the Code but are left to be fixed by the military authorities, except that the later codes do not authorize punishment by death save for specifically designated offenses. The system also provides for summary punishment for minor infractions and a series of courts--a general court having power to try all offenses, a special court with limited power to impose punishment and a so-called summary or deck court with very limited powers. Unlike the civilian courts, each of which has a permanent judge or group of judges, the court-martial is appointed by military authorities to try a designated case or series of cases. In this respect, it resembles the civilian jury rather than the civilian court, but its members under the orthodox system perform the functions of both judge and jury in determining guilt and fixing sentences.