Gonzalez & Waddington – Attorneys at Law

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Court Martial Lawyers – Alexandra González-Waddington & Michael Waddington Attorneys at Law


Overview of the appellate review for government appeals:

  1. Initially, must be filed at Court of Criminal Appeals.
  2. Appellate counsel represent the parties. But trial counsel and trial defense counsel must maintain close contact with appellate counsel.
  3. Priority review.
  4. Courts of Criminal Appeals “may take action only with respect to matters of law.”
    See United States v. Solorio , 21 M.J. 251 (C.M.A. 1986).
  5. Standard of review.                                                                                                                                      a. Did the military judge “err as a matter of law”?                                                                                  1) Questions of law are reviewed de novo. United States v. Kosek , 41 M.J. 60 (1994).                2) See United States v. Rittenhouse , 62 M.J. 509 (A. Ct. Crim. App. 2005) (holding military judge erred in applying the law to computer evidence and admissions).                                          b. Findings of fact?                                                                                                                                      1) “[I]f a military judge’s finding of fact is supported by the evidence of record (or lack thereof), then it shall not be disturbed on appeal taken under Article 62.”
    United States v. Vangelisti , 30 M.J. 234 (C.M.A. 1990).                                                                   2) United States v. Lincoln , 42 M.J. 315 (1995). NMCMR reversed MJ on a government appeal of the suppression of a confession, and ordered the confession admitted into evidence. CAAF noted, “on questions of fact the appellate court is limited to determining whether the military judge’s findings are clearly erroneous or unsupported by the record. If the findings are incomplete or ambiguous, the ‘appropriate remedy . . . is a remand for clarification’ or additional findings.”                                                                                                                                   3) United States v. Reinecke , 30 M.J. 1010 (A.F.C.M.R. 1990). When ruling on motions to suppress, the MJ is required to state essential findings on the record; findings stated separately and succinctly; findings logical and complete enough so the appellate court does not have to resort to other parts of record for meaning; after stating findings, MJ should state legal basis for decision, i.e ., legal standards applied and analysis of the application of the standards to the facts previously stated; and, MJ should state any conclusions made and why. 4) “clearly erroneous” factual findings do not bind Courts of Criminal Appeals.                              5) United States v. Burris , 21 M.J. 140 (C.M.A. 1985); United States v. Clarke , 23 M.J. 519 (A.F.C.M.R. 1986), aff’d 23 M.J. 352 (C.M.A. 1987) (….“We will reverse for an abuse of discretion if the military judge’s findings of fact are clearly erroneous or if his decision is influenced by an erroneous view of the law…. ”
    United States v. Dooley , 61 M.J. 258 (2005), citling United States v. Gore , 60 M.J. 178 (2004).                                                                                                                                                   6) United States v. Hatfield , 43 M.J. 662 (N.M. Ct. Crim. App. 1995). MJ dismissed charges on speedy trial grounds. NMCCA reversed on government appeal, applying standard of review that “findings by the trial court are ‘clearly erroneous’ when, although there is some evidence to support them, the appellate court is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.” Appellate court cannot simply substitute its own judgment of what constitutes “reasonable diligence.”
  6. The CAAF or U.S. Supreme Court may stay trial pending additional review.

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