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Forum Selection

There are many factors that weigh on the decision of what kind of composition a given court-martial should have. Understand that these are tactical decisions that an attorney can advise a military accused about, but ultimately this is one of the major decisions that only the client can make.

The two major options are Military Judge alone or a Panel (jury). If the military accused is an enlisted member, there is a “third” or bifurcated option to request some of the members are also enlisted.

The default for many counsel is to recommend an “enlisted panel” when the client is an enlisted person. Please note that what people refer to as an “enlisted panel” means that the panel will be composed of at least one-third enlisted members; the remaining members will be Officers. No enlisted member can come from the same company sized element as the military accused.

For other attorneys (a minority), their default recommendation is a panel composed of all Officers.

In some cases, there are strategic reasons to opt for a Military Judge alone to decide whether the evidence supports a conclusion that the person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

In weighing the options, it is important that the attorney giving advice knows about the assigned judge at the installation or has sought out intelligence about that person. Even better is if the attorney knows of outcomes in other cases at the jurisdiction. Unlike the civilian world, the court-martial panel members often sit for more than six months or even a year so many of them have seen other cases. Tracking their outcomes can be invaluable when trying to gage which way they may lean.

There are also general tendencies by the functional area that the member works in. For example, many believe that an engineer or someone whose job is scientifically concentrated may have a firmer view (or more exacting standards) of what is meant by guilty beyond a reasonable doubt than someone without a scientific background.

Forum selection is a critical choice, and the more information available will yield a more informed decision. Remember that while you may rely on your attorney for advice, at the core of things, this is the military accused’s choice.

Our Practice Areas

Being a former service member herself and working exclusively on military cases, Ms. Stewart has amassed experience to help in the following areas of the UCMJ:

What Our Clients Say

When faced with the decision of hiring a UCMJ specialist, Ms. Stewart’s former clients explain all that is necessary about her commitment to their case and her expertise in handling the toughest legal battles. Learn more about her unique abilities in the words of her clients, peers, and military judges.