R v. Moriarity

2015 SCC 55, [2015] 3 S.C.R. 485 (2015)

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R v. Moriarity

Canada Supreme Court
2015 SCC 55, [2015] 3 S.C.R. 485 (2015)

Facts

The Code of Service Discipline (service code) was a set of laws governing the Canadian military that spelled out uniquely military crimes. In addition, the National Defence Act (NDA) incorporated almost all federal civilian crimes into the service code, creating duplicate, military versions of the civilian offenses. Thus, almost all civilian crimes committed by a servicemember could be heard as either a civilian offense or a military offense. Sometimes referred to as service-status jurisdiction, this system meant that an individual’s status as a member of the military subjected the individual to possible military-court jurisdiction over any legal infraction, even if the crime had no direct ties to the military and occurred while the servicemember was off duty. Several Canadian servicemembers (defendants) were sentenced under the military-justice system and appealed their sentences. As part of their appeals, the servicemembers argued that the NDA was unconstitutionally overbroad because it incorporated civilian crimes into the service code that were not directly related to the NDA’s stated purpose of maintaining military discipline, efficiency, and morale. The Court Martial Appeal Court found that the military courts’ jurisdiction over civilian crimes was impliedly limited to crimes that had a clear military nexus or connection, sometimes referred to as service-connected jurisdiction. However, instead of invalidating the NDA’s service-status-jurisdiction language as overbroad, the appellate court found that the NDA impliedly contained the same service-connection limitation. The matter was appealed to the Canada Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Cromwell, J.)

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