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, and in most cases is going to be the most senior level officer for the base. Some bases are large enough that they do have more than one general 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 even though the person who is known as the special court-martial convening authority is an 06 level commander at the base, and again, there typically are going to be multiple ones 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 a judge a back on a discharge is the general court-martial convening authority. That special court-martial convening authorities 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 05 level commander on a particular base, and once again, there are typically multiple ones of those on a particular base, but often you will see, depending upon the person who’s involved in the allegations that a particular base may 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 summary court-martial. So 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.

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