Vanderbilt Law Review


Robert D. Duke

First Page



The Uniform Code of Military Justice, which became effective in May, 1951, was enacted largely in response to the criticisms leveled at the administration of military justice during World War I. The Code reflected the prevailing feeling that military justice should be brought more nearly into line with the criminal procedures followed in civilian courts. To further this objective, Congress required that in general court-martial cases legally qualified counsel be appointed to represent both the Government and the accused. The position of "law officer" was created and invested with much of the authority exercised by a federal district judge in criminal cases. A third significant innovation was the establishment of the Court of Military Appeals, to consist of three judges appointed from civilian life. The court acts as the top appellate tribunal and has jurisdiction to hear appeals from the decisions of service boards of review in the more serious cases, usually involving sentences to a dishonorable or bad conduct discharge.