Who Has the Authority to Convene a Court-Martial?
The convening authority for a general court-martial is known as the General Court-Martial Convening Authority. In most cases, it’s going to be the most senior-level Officer for the base.
Some bases are large enough that they do have more than one court-martial convening authority, but you’re going to be talking about an admiral, a flag officer, or a general officer with multiple stars.
When people talk about the Special Court-Martial Convening Authority it’s important that you understand that even though the person who is known as the Special Court-Martial Convening Authority is an 0-6 level commander at the base (again, typically there are going to be multiple of those on any given base), understand that a Special Court-Martial that goes to trial, the ones that we actually see in practice, are really known as Special Courts-Martial that are empowered to a judge a Bad Conduct Discharge.
The only person with authority to refer, which is the process of officially sending a case to a Special Court-Martial that can adjudge a Bad Conduct Discharge is the General Court-Martial Convening Authority. That Special Court-Martial Convening Authority’s role generally is going to be appointing an Article 32 hearing officer to a case that has an eye toward General Court-Martial.
A Summary Court-Martial Convening Authority is typically an 0-5 level commander on a particular base, and once again there are typically multiple of those on a particular base. Depending on the person involved in the allegations, often you will see a particular base have a withhold policy where either the Special Court-Martial Convening Authority or the General Court-Martial Convening Authority retains the right to convene that case to a Court-Martial. Even though each of those people have those titles, it may not be on any given case on any particular base that that person is actually fulfilling that role.
For questions about court-martial convening authority, contact the Law Office of Jocelyn C. Stewart at 1-888-252-0927.