The Canary in the Military Justice Mineshaft: A Review of Recent Sexual Assault Courts-Martial Tainted by Unlawful Command Influence

Contributing USMA Research Unit(s)

Army Cyber Institute, Law

Publication Date


Publication Title

Mitchell Hamline Law Journal of Public Policy and Practice

Document Type



In the 17-month time period of May 2017-September 2018, military appellate courts have reversed five sexual assault convictions based on the legal doctrine of Unlawful Command Influence. Many of these cases are directly tied to the military's response to congressional criticism of the military's handling of such cases. This article examines the five cases and the greater context in which they were decided, along with a recent report on the prosecution of sexual assault courts-martial. The cases and report suggest that the military has over-corrected in its response to congressional criticism and the fairness of trials are being called into question. The article concludes with observations for addressing these concerns.

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