Is There Life After a Court Martial?

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Q: What kind of life can I hope for after a court martial?

When you’re a member of the military and facing a court-martial, it’s natural to be nervous and worried about the future, especially if you plan to rely on an overworked and often inexperienced free military defense lawyer. Depending on the type of court martial and the charges levied against you, a conviction could result in such punishments as a reprimand, a discharge, confinement, or even death.

Even if you feel more confident because you have an experienced civilian court-martial defense attorney by your side, it’s natural to wonder: Is there life after a court martial?

Recent news reports in Colorado political circles indicate that there most certainly can be life after a court-martial or administrative separation—sometimes within the military and other times after separation.

About a decade ago, a Navy chaplain was court-martialed and convicted “for violating the lawful order of a superior commissioned officer in connection with the March 2006 media event at Lafayette Park” across from The White House. The chaplain was advised that he “should not, while in uniform, give interviews, make speeches, or otherwise engage in public advocacy of personal or partisan views on political, social or religious issues”.  In convicting the chaplain, the military court rejected his argument that the event was a “bona fide religious service or observance” at which wearing his uniform would have been permitted.

Although he was convicted at the court-martial, of one violation of 10 USC Section 892, Article 92 of the UCMJ (failure to obey an order or regulation), he was not discharged as a result of that conviction. His court-martial sentence was a reprimand and a partial forfeiture of pay for 12 months, the latter of which was suspended.

Unfortunately for him, within days after the court-martial conviction, the chaplain apparently unwittingly set his ultimate separation from the military in motion by voluntarily resigning from the Evangelical Episcopal Church. The resignation prompted the church to immediately notify the Chief of Navy Personnel that the chaplain lost his ecclesiastical endorsement.

When a chaplain loses his ecclesiastical authority or his endorsement is withdrawn, processing for Administrative Separation must be initiated immediately upon that church notification. Although the chaplain, within merely days, obtained a new ecclesiastical endorsement from the Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Church, recertification is not automatic, but rather is subject to military review and approval.

After a review of factors including the officer’s professional performance, accomplishments, and disciplinary records (which included the court-martial conviction and some fitness reports with some “below average” ratings) the chaplain’s recertification was denied and he was administratively separated.

So, is there life after such a separation from the military?

A court martial conviction, administrative separation, or other potentially-controversial or less than honorable departure from the military can and often does raise red flags and may negatively impact a former soldier’s ability to go to college or get employment. While it may be hard for many to get past some obstacles, others do manage to make high-profile careers.

The former Navy chaplain has led a life in the public eye during and since his court-martial and separation from the military. He’s a well-known, “nationally controversial televangelist” and also served one term as a Colorado Springs Assemblyman. He was defeated in the 2016 GOP Primary for a Senate seat and reportedly in a recent bid to become vice chair of the El Paso County GOP. Recently, the former Navy chaplain made the news for allegedly accusing an opponent of hiring a formal naval officer to publicly defame him.

If you are facing an involuntary administrative discharge or separation, or a court-martial or court martial appeal, an experienced civilian military defense attorney or appellate attorney may be your best chance of defending your reputation, career, family life, and freedom.

Contact the Court Martial Law division of Aviso Law LLC in Denver, Colorado at 719-247-3111 for a free consultation. Our experienced military defense attorneys provide world-class representation to service members and veterans worldwide.

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