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Military Law Review

ARTICLE: Automatic Appeal under UCMJ Article 66: Time for a Change

Winter, 2004

182 Mil. L. Rev. 1




I. Introduction

Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) Article 66 (Art. 66) requires The Judge Advocate General (TJAG) to refer to a Court of Criminal Appeals, the record of each trial by court-martial in which the approved sentence extends to death, confinement for one year or more, or dismissal, dishonorable or bad conduct discharge (BCD) of a service member. 1 In short, Art. 66 provides an automatic appeal for cases in which an accused is sentenced to a punitive discharge or confinement for one year or more. 2 Congress adopted the automatic appeal procedures set forth in Art. 66 in 1950 as a safety net to protect the rights of convicted service members in what was then considered a flawed and unfair military justice system. 3 In the more than fifty years since Congress enacted the UCMJ, the circumstances that gave rise to Congress' requirement for an automatic appeal have changed drastically. The safeguards Congress established in Art. 66 are no longer needed in many cases because of improvements at the trial level and changes in society.

As the operational tempo and deployments increase for all branches of the Armed Forces, and demands on the personnel and resources of each service's Judge Advocate General's Corps increase, it is time to reassess the breadth of the safety net that Art. 66 casts. During fiscal years (FY) 1998-2002, the Army, Navy/Marine Corps, and Air Force Courts of Appeals (the service courts) reviewed almost 15,800 cases pursuant ...
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