Convening authority (court-martial)

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The term convening authority is used in United States military law to refer to an individual whose job includes appointing officers to play a role in a court-martial, or similar military tribunal or military commission.[1] The appointees serve as the military judge and members of the "panel", which decides the guilt or innocence of a person standing trial before the court-martial or military commission. When an enlisted member is on trial, he or she may demand that enlisted members be included on the panel. The court-martial, tribunal, or Military Commission then reports back to the convening authority their recommended verdict.[2] Unlike a civilian trial, the convening authority's "command prerogative" entitles them to amend or overturn the sentence of a court-martial. The convening authority may not set aside a finding of not guilty or increase the severity of a recommended punishment.

Guantanamo Military Commissions[edit]

The individual in over-all charge of the Guantanamo military commissions is also called the convening authority. The first three incumbents were civilian officials, although the first and third incumbents, John D. Altenburg and Bruce MacDonald, were retired military flag officers.[3][4] Susan J. Crawford, the second convening authority, had been a long-term senior civilian lawyer for the Department of Defense, eventually serving as the Inspector General.[5]


  1. ^ "Commanding Officers Convening Authority". Retrieved 2010-04-14. "In referring a matter to court-martial, the CO becomes the convening authority. As such, the CO decides what charges to refer to the court-martial; what type of courts-martial; and selects the court-martial members (jury)." 
  2. ^ "§ 860. Art. 60. Action by the convening authority". Cornell University Law School. Retrieved 2010-04-14. "The findings and sentence of a court-martial shall be reported promptly to the convening authority after the announcement of the sentence." 
  3. ^ "Head of Military Commissions Quits". Wall Street Journal. November 15, 2006. 
  4. ^ Michael Isikoff (2010-03-24). "Pentagon to Name New Chief for Military Commissions in Sign That Gitmo Trials May Move Forward". Newsweek. Retrieved 2010-04-14. "The appointment of retired Admiral Bruce MacDonald, who formerly served as the chief Judge Advocate of the Navy, as the new "convening authority" for the Office of Military Commissions is among the most important moves in an apparent gearing up for the expected new wave of trials." 
  5. ^ "Seasoned Judge Tapped to Head Detainee Trials". Department of Defense. February 7, 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-01.  mirror