Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



To most attorneys not having been directly associated at some time with the Armed Forces of the United States, the words "boards of review" mean little. Perhaps at the outset it would serve to clarify the matter if each attorney, when thinking of "boards of review," would substitute in his mind the words "courts of appeal" as those words are understood in the federal judicial system. The boards of review can be aptly analogized to our federal courts of appeal because for the bulk of serious cases which arise in the Armed Forces, review by a board of review is automatic and, indeed, such automatic review has been declared tantamount to an appeal on behalf of the accused in each such case. Boards of review in the Armed Services are of relatively recent origin. In the Army they date from the World War I period. Early in that war some troops stationed near Houston, Texas, engaged in a riot and a mutiny. Some of the offenders were promptly brought to trial by court-martial for mutiny. The trial lasted several days and was carefully, fairly and scrupulously conducted. Each night the stenographic transcription of the day's proceedings was brought to the department judge advocate, who wrote his review as the trial progressed. On the last day several of the mutineers were found guilty and some were sentenced to death. That night the review was completed. The sentences were approved and confirmed by the department commander pursuant to his authority under Article 48 of the 1916 Articles of War to confirm death sentences in time of war, and the next morning the sentences were carried into execution.