Weiss v. United States

510 U.S. 163 (1994)

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Weiss v. United States

United States Supreme Court
510 U.S. 163 (1994)

Facts

Two servicemembers (defendants) were separately tried by court-martial and convicted. At that time, the United States court-martial system had existed for 200 years without ever using trial judges who served set services terms. Indeed, for the first 150 years of its existence, the United States court-martial system did not use any judges at trials. The system in place during the servicemembers’ courts-martial did use military judges, but those judges answered only to the judge advocate general and not to the convening officer. Further, no convening or commanding officer was allowed to evaluate or reprimand a military judge based on the judge’s exercise of his judicial duties. Military judges were also prohibited from presiding over cases in which they had an interest, and an accused was allowed to challenge the selection of a particular military judge for cause, i.e., if the accused had a demonstrable reason to be concerned about that judge’s impartiality or independence. Finally, all court-martial decisions were reviewable by the Court of Military Appeals, which was staffed with civilian judges who served 15-year fixed terms. The servicemembers appealed their convictions, claiming that their constitutional due-process right to an independent court had been violated. Specifically, the servicemembers argued that the military judges who presided over their trials were not sufficiently independent because they did not serve for a fixed length of time. The Court of Military Appeals affirmed the convictions, and the United States Supreme Court agreed to review the issue.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Rehnquist, C.J.)

Concurrence (Scalia, J.)

Concurrence (Ginsburg, J.)

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