Duquesne Law Review


Until several years ago, most people, lawyers and laymen alike, had little concern for the nature of the military justice system and its relation to the state and federal systems of justice. Unless one were a career soldier, had served in the armed services, or lived near a military base, military law never captured his attention or touched his personal life. However, with the United States' increased involvement in the Vietnam conflict and resulting governmental prosecutions of individuals for the commission of "battle-related crimes," the military justice system has increasingly come to the attention of the American public. The widespread, intense, and pervasive coverage by the news media of the trial of Lieutenant William L. Calley caused his trial to become a frequent subject of conversation. This article deals mainly with the relationship between the military justice system and the habeas corpus power of the federal district courts. Habeas corpus affords collateral, as opposed to direct relief; therefore, only those aspects of the military justice system are discussed which are relevant to this collateral remedy. A brief historical overview of habeas review of military decisions is given, culminating in a discussion and proposed interpretation of the decision rendered by the United States Supreme Court in Burns v. Wilson, which remains the controlling judicial authority in this area. Lastly, the article criticizes those federal circuits which have narrowly interpreted the Burns decision when confronted with an argument based upon the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment.

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