Anthony Godwin


Service members in the armed forces are bound by a different set of rules when compared to other U.S. citizens. Some of the normal safeguards and protections that civilians enjoy are much more restrictive for military service members, and this is generally for a good reason. Such restrictions are partly due to the complex demands and needs of the United States military. Congress and the President have entrusted military commanders with special powers that enable them to handle minor violations of law without needing to go through a full judicial proceeding. Non-judicial punishments (NJP), also known as Article 15s, are among the many powers military commanders can utilize to swiftly handle minor violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

This Note will explore the military commander’s role in executing such authority and the various ways in which these proceedings can inadvertently undercut soldiers’ rights. The first part of the Note will cover the commander’s role and authority and outline the various types of punishments a commander can implement within an Article 15 proceeding. The subsequent sections will explain the administrative nature of an Article 15 proceeding and how the punishments seem to overreach as if commanders were addressing criminal-like conduct rather than administrative. The next section will analyze whether commanders are able to truly exercise impartiality throughout the non-judicial process. The last section will provide possible alternative courses of action to remedy the common problems associated with the administration of non-judicial punishments.

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