Trial procedures differ according to the type of
court convened to hear the case. Summary courts-
martial (SCM) are convened to try relatively minor
offenses and they use a simple form of procedure.
Special courts-martial (SPCM) try serious offenses
that are deemed to be beyond the scope of an SCM but
not serious enough to warrant trial by general courts-
martial (GCM). The major differences in these types
of courts-martial are the maximum punishments that
each may adjudge and the manner in which you pre-
pare the records of proceedings.
This chapter examines the types of courts-martial,
the procedures each uses, and other procedural mat-
ters that occur before and during trial. In our discus-
sion of trial procedures, it is necessary to treat the
SCM separately because its procedures are much dif-
ferent from those of the SPCM and GCM.
THE SUMMARY COURT-MARTIAL
An SCM is the least formal of the three types of
courts-martial and the least protective of individual
rights. The SCM is a streamlined trial process involv-
ing only one officer who performs the duties of prose-
cutor, defense counsel, judge, and members. The
purpose of this type of court-martial is to dispose of
relatively minor offenses. The one officer assigned to
perform the various roles must inquire thoroughly and
impartially into the matter concerned to make sure
both the United States and the accused receive a fair
hearing. The SCM is a streamlined procedure that
provides less protection of the rights of the accused
than other forms of court-martial. The maximum im-
posable punishment that an SCM can award is very
limited. Furthermore, it may try only enlisted person-
nel who consent to be tried by SCM.
As the SCM has no civilian equivalent, it is
strictly a creature of statue within the military system.
While it is a criminal proceeding at which the techni-
cal rules of evidence apply and at which a finding of
guilty can result in loss of liberty and property, there
is no constitutional right to representation by counsel.
Therefore, it is not a truly adversarial proceeding.
CREATION OF THE SUMMARY
An SCM is convened (created) by an individual
authorized by law to convene an SCM. Article 24,
Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ); Rules for
Courts-Martial (R.C.M.) 1302a, Manual for Courts-
Martial (MCM), 1984; and Manual of the Judge Ad-
vocate General (JAGMAN) 0120c identify those
persons who have the power to convene an SCM.
These individuals include any person who may con-
vene a GCM or an SPCM; or the commanding officer
(CO) or officer in charge (OIC) of any other command
when empowered by the Secretary of the Navy (SEC-
The authority to convene an SCM rests in the
office of the authorized command vice in the person
of its commander. For example, Captain Doe, U.S.
Navy, has SCM convening authority while perform-
ing his or her duties as Commanding Officer, USS
Mississippi. When Captain Doe goes on leave or is
absent from his or her command for other reasons, he
or she loses his or her authority. The power to convene
an SCM is nondelegable and in no event can a subor-
dinate exercise such authority by direction. When
Captain Doe is on leave from his or her ship, his or her
authority to convene an SCM passes to his or her
temporary successor in command (usually the execu-
tive officer) who, in the eyes of the law, becomes the
COs or OICs not empowered to convene an SCM
may request such authority by following the proce-
dures contained in the JAGMAN.
Restrictions on Authority to Convene
Unlike the authority to impose nonjudicial pun-
ishment (NJP), a competent superior commander may
restrict the power to convene SCMs. Furthermore, the
commander of a unit attached to a ship should, as a
matter of policy, refrain from exercising his or her
SCM convening powers. He or she should refer such
cases to the CO of the ship for disposition while the
unit is embarked. This policy does not apply to com-
manders of units that are embarked for transportation