Perhaps you’ve just been notified that you are under investigation or face Article 15 / NJP punishment. You may be looking for an attorney to assist right away but you should also consider what happens if you’re convicted. Appeals are an opportunity for a “second chance” but all too often clients don’t know about them or don’t know how to exercise these rights. Don’t make that mistake.  

The appellate process will depend upon at which “forum” you were convicted.  


If you were convicted at Article 15 (also known as Office Hours, Captain’s Mast, or NJP), you have the right to appeal to the next higher level of command and—if you request it—the command may have to delay some of your punishment until the appeal is decided. The next higher commander can take any action, including overturning your conviction. This is an important opportunity to have someone else look at your conviction and some action by the higher commander is not unusual, provided your appeal is done right.  


Next, if you are convicted at a court martial, you may have the right to appeal to a higher court. The military justice process is FAR from perfect. Investigators violate the constitution, judges make mistakes at trial, Commanders abuse their discretion during the course of your trial. These types of mistakes (and more) may be reviewed on appeal and can result in a “second chance” for you or a loved one. In fact, an aggressive, successful appeal could result in your conviction being overturned entirely, meaning it would be as if it never occurred. You get your life back, you get back pay from the time your pay stopped, and you get reinstated on active duty with the chance for immediate back-promotions. It happens! 

Read opinions here and here to see why having a good appellate lawyer is so important, even if you plead guilty to the charges.  

But notice we say, “MAY” be reviewed on appeal. That review will generally not happen if your lawyer did not “preserve” the issues at the court martial. That’s why it’s so important that you have a trial lawyer who understands the rules of appellate procedure. Even better is that you understand the basics yourself.  To help you, we spend a little time here explaining how the process works.  

First, the rules for appeal generally permit your lawyer to raise issues that were “properly preserved” at trial. This requires that your trial lawyer make the proper objections, at the proper time, during trial to “preserve” the issue for appeal. If they don’t, that issue may be deemed “waived” on appeal. Sadly, few trial lawyers have extensive appellate experience so many issues end up “waived” as a result. Make sure you hire a trial attorney with appellate experience–the more experience the better! Otherwise, you might lose this important “second chance.”   

 [Don] has mastered the art of . . . military justice . . . thorough grasp of rules, procedures, and [criminal law] processes. One of the preeminent experts in this field.” Supervising Military Judge, 2012


Your appellate rights depend upon the type of court martial (Summary, Special, or General) and the sentence you receive. Generally, your first opportunity for appellate relief begins immediately after your trial. Your lawyer will be able to point out any errors or mistakes made at the trial level in a “clemency” submission to the convening authority (the convening authority Is the commander who ordered your trial). Depending upon the charge and the sentence, the convening authority may be able to set aside your conviction or disapprove your sentence. This should be considered your first opportunity at appeal and should be aggressively pursued. As the legal advisor for several of these commanders, Don can help explain why a thorough clemency submission can make an enormous difference. But they have to be done correctly and tailored to the commander and the circumstances. These submissions should NEVER be “boilerplate.”     

“Routinely sought out by other counsel for comprehensive knowledge of post-trial and clemency [strategies].” Commanding Officer, 2000


Another opportunity for appeal (again, depending upon the type of court-martial and the sentence awarded) is a review by the Office of the service’s Judge Advocate General. This is also an important opportunity for getting your conviction set aside or your sentence reduced and your lawyer should be all over this. Make sure they are!


The final course of appeal to discuss is to the military appellate courts. If the court martial was a Special or General, and the sentence was severe enough, your case will automatically be appealed. During this appeal, you will get a new active duty military lawyer to represent you. The process is different than your court martial, as an appeal is basically a review of the record of your trial, with no evidence or courtroom appearances required. Instead, if your case goes this route, you’ll likely get a call from a uniformed appellate attorney who will let you know that they’ve been assigned to represent you. That attorney will then review the record of your trial to identify any of the issues written about above. 


Because it will be this lawyer alone reviewing your case, it’s critically important that that lawyer have experience in this area. The appellate defense divisions have fantastic attorneys, some with significant experience. BUT YOU NEED TO MAKE SURE OF THIS! As a Senior Military Appellate Judge, Don saw FAR too many cases where inexperienced counsel missed very important issues. If this happens, those issues will likely never be considered and you’ll never be the wiser. To help avoid this trap, make sure your attorney has as much experience as possible! Ask the attorney how long they’ve been an attorney, how any military appeals they have done, etc. Know your lawyer’s qualifications.

Once the record has been reviewed, and if your attorney identified any issues, your attorney will produce a “brief” which is a document that sets forth the issues the attorney identified, the lawyer’s argument as to why the issues should make the court take action, and the lawyer’s argument about what that action should be. This is where advocacy, or persuasive writing, is crucial. These recommendations can range from modifying your sentence (like disapproving the Dishonorable Discharge), to disapproving your sentence and ordering a new sentencing rehearing, to overturning the conviction entirely, without the possibility of you being retried. If your case is automatically appealed, the appellate courts cannot make your sentence more severe—it may only reduce or eliminate it. As you can see, this “second chance” can mean the world to you or a loved one.

Once the attorney submits this brief, a government appellate attorney drafts a response and both documents go to the appellate court where a panel of three judges make the decision. Frequently, one side or the other may request oral argument or the court may even order it without the parties’ request. If an oral argument is ordered then the parties will argue the case live before the court (likely in Washington D.C.), but it is only a hearing…no testimony or evidence is involved.

The law also requires the appellate court to review the record independently to ensure that the court is itself convinced of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Once the panel makes a decision, the decision is returned to the parties. At that point the parties can request that the panel reconsider its decision, or even that the panel send the decision to the entire court composed of approximately nine judges for reconsideration by the entire court. However, these requests for reconsideration have timelines and can only be granted if certain steps are taken first. Again, a reason why your appellate attorney MUST ABSOLUTELY know what he or she is doing. Miss a step or a timeline and you miss this chance.  


If the appellate military court upholds your conviction, then your attorney may seek review by the next higher court, known as the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF). The CAAF is composed of civilian judges. Appeals to this court are largely “discretionary,” meaning the court may decline to permit the appeal. Therefore, your appellate attorney must know exactly what the CAAF is looking for before you request an appeal to this court.


Finally, you may attempt to appeal your case to the U.S. Supreme Court (USSC).  Like CAAF, the USSC has discretion on what cases it will allow and only a tiny fraction of military cases that are appealed to USSC are accepted. 


When all other avenues are exhausted, you have the right to file certain Writs. Writs are another name for an appeal and are generally applicable only in extraordinary circumstances when no other opportunity for relief is available (for example, all of your appeals are exhausted but you experience unusual punishment in prison.) There are two types of writs:

Writ of Habeas Corpus. This writ is only available to service members still in confinement.

Writ of Mandamus. This type of writ is available to all convicted service members but three prerequisites are required: (1) a clear right to the relief sought; (2) a plain duty on the part of Government to do the act in question; and (3) there is no other adequate remedy available.

BUT BE CAREFUL: A service member may only bring a writ if the service member “preserved” the error by raising it during his trial or appeal. This is yet another reason you select an attorney for trial who understands these requirements and takes action to preserve the necessary issues should they be needed later.  


Learn all you can about these courts and their procedures. To help you do so, we’ve provided links here where you can read the rules yourself and formulate any questions for your attorney.


We hope this information has helped better inform you and assists you in making important decisions. Don’t discount the importance of an appeal! When done right, it may give you your life back. If you have questions, please give us a call for a free consultation and let us see if we can help.    

King Military Law: Decades of Experience in YOUR Corner–When Experience Matters Most 

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Dakota GrammerDakota Grammer
21:49 09 Mar 23
Let me begin by saying Mr. King has saved my life. I hired Mr. King for defense in a Court Martial case. His entire team worked tirelessly to create a solid defense for me. They would even just have conversations with me to make sure my mental health was okay throughout the whole process, making sure I know my resources incase I needed help. Because of Mr. King and his team I got an amazing plea that would not have been possible without him. I would recommend anyone to Mr. King and his team. Thank you all again for everything you have done for me and helping me still have a life after such a stressful event!
Kyp RidenhourKyp Ridenhour
19:05 05 Dec 22
Don King is as exceptional as his resume would have you believe. His knowledge of legal proceedings, and litigating skills were far above what I had even expected. His assistance was worth every penny. I could not have been happier with choosing King Military Law. Don and his team helped me through every part of the legal procedure that I was dealing with and if it had not been for his team I would not have been able to continue my career in the United States Marine Corps. Mr. King and his team were always able to help me and I would not ever recommend anyone else for help in a military law situation as Mr. King has more experience in military law and litigating than any prosecutor that the United States government would put up against you. His team will help you fight back any false charges and I would happily trust him and his team in any situation. My brother is a lawyer and he told me I was very lucky to find such an experienced lawyer to help me. Please reach out to KingMilitaryLaw for help if you are ever in need.
01:46 17 Nov 22
I had a great experience working with King Military Law. They are excellent when it comes to communication and understanding the law. I would truly recommend them to anyone who needs assistance on any legal issues.
Siddharth SwaminathanSiddharth Swaminathan
14:41 09 Nov 22
Simply put Don, Kasheta and the rest of king military law are amazing. They are worth every dollar and Don truly cares about each of one of his clients. He will work night and day for and there is no one better than Don in this business. I was facing a board of inquiry for a situation that had gotten so far out of hand. Don pointed out so many flaws in my case and stopped my situation before it made it to a BOI. I cant thank Don enough. I called Don over 20 times a day. He always answered my phone calls, was patient and was with me every step of the way keeping me calm and grounded. My only regret is I didnt call Don immediately at the first sign of trouble.
Pusha 392Pusha 392
01:17 03 Nov 22
Was in an overwhelming situation with the Navy, reached out for a consultation with Mr King, he explained potential outcomes and path that could be taken. I felt comfortable hiring him and his team. Mr Don and his are knowledgeable, effective, efficient and very understanding. Because of their help I’m able to continue my time in the Navy. Big shout to Angela Schlosser and Kasheta De La Garza, who work and assist Mr Don King
greg Meagreg Mea
04:22 12 Oct 22
I can’t recommend King Military Law enough ! I felt like I wasn’t just a case but an actual person. They were professional yet compassionate every step of the way. Answered every question with kindness and honesty. They are completely transparent an filled with knowledge . Which i think is what everyone should look for when thinking about hiring an attorney. They truly have your best interest at heart.
Gabe CarothersGabe Carothers
03:05 30 Jul 22
King military law truly cares, and will be by your side every single step of the way. If you are even thinking of calling them. Do It. They are true professionals who care. Thank you king military law.
Ro JairamRo Jairam
15:29 12 Jul 22
Don is the guy you want in your corner. When you are up against the resources of the military and government in general, it can be overwhelming. The military JAGs who may eventually get to defend you do their best, but they are often overrun with cases and can only represent you after you’ve been officially been informed that you’re going to court-martial or administrative separation board.I won’t go into too many details about my specific situation, but Don’s vast experience as a prior judge and JAGC CAPT, his knowledge of the law and particular the UCMJ, and quite frankly, his connections to those in the military legal circles, may have saved my career.Do yourself a favor and call King Military Law for a free consultation. Especially if you think things are going to go sideways (like they did in my case), you should give serious consideration toward hiring an attorney.I’ll end with this since I’m being vague. My situation ended in an outcome that the JAGs were flabbergasted by. I had to make some financial sacrifices to hire this warrior but it was well worth it in the end. The resolution to my situation was fair and equitable, and that’s all I could hope for in the beginning.Thanks Don, and keep fighting the good fight.
Coleman ProffittColeman Proffitt
18:19 26 Jun 22
Don King is a man of integrity, professionalism, and work ethic. He worked tirelessly on my case and was always available for my questions. He made sure that I was well informed on the entire situation and all outcomes. I am thankful that I had Don King on my case, and I would give him the highest recommendation to anyone in need.
02:07 09 Apr 22
We only had a Brief conversation. But within those few minutes, He made me smile with relief. He gave me better advice then three lawyers a jag and legal on my ship. I got hit with article 112a, when my ship found a dab pen in my belongings. After his consultation, I feel like I can put my mine at ease. highly recommend 10 out of 10!!!!!!

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