Are court martials open to the public?

Yes. Court-martial proceedings are criminal proceedings that are open to both the general public and military service members. Like state and federal criminal trials, the public can watch nearly all parts of a court-martial proceeding. The main challenge civilians face when wanting to watch a court-martial is getting access to the military installation. Most installations require a base pass and/or an escort to enter the installation. If you are a civilian without a military ID, you should coordinate through the JAG office or the Public Affairs Office. Plan ahead and be prepared to jump through some hoops to gain access.

However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. Certain parts of a court-martial are closed to the public. For example, a hearing to determine the admissibility of a sexual assault victim’s sexual behavior under Military Rule of Evidence 412 (the Rape Shield Law) is closed to the public, and the record is sealed.

The media is allowed to watch court-martial proceedings. The media is usually required to contact the installation’s Public Affairs Office to coordinate access to the court-martial. 

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