George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School

M-VETS Visits the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces

(Pictured L to R: SA Olivia Sznaza, Clerk of the Court, Malcolm Squires, Jr., Director Timothy MacArthur, SA Liz Faris, Deputy Director Leigh Winstead, SA Greg Pelletier, Adjunct Professor Chapman Good).

The Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic (“M-VETS”) visited the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (“CAAF”) in Washington, D.C. on 13 July 2022. Malcolm Squires, Jr., the Clerk of the Court, gave M-VETS student advisors and staff a tour as well as a detailed history of the Court and military justice.

The CAAF, located in Judiciary Square, was previously the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. However, as the case load of the Court of Appeals grew, it was necessary to relocate. The CAAF took its place in the historic building.

The CAAF reviews decisions from the Courts of Criminal Appeals from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard. However, the CAAF only came into existence after World War II. There was previously no judicial review process for court-martial convictions. The need for a review process became clear during the World Wars. Over one million service members were court-martialed during World War II. At this time, the process did not even require the service member to be represented by a lawyer. This meant the service members were sometimes court-martialed and even potentially sentenced to death without the representation of an attorney. However, following World War II, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (“UCMJ”) was developed. The UCMJ created the CAAF, which is now the highest military court.

“We are very grateful to the CAAF staff and court personnel for hosting M-VETS,” Deputy Director Leigh Winstead said. “In particular, Mr. Squires’s hospitality and extensive knowledge of the history of the Court made for a fun and engaging afternoon.”

Student-Advisor Liz Faris commented: “Beyond getting to see the beautiful, historic building, it was fascinating to learn about the history of military law and the court itself. It provides an important historical background for the work that we do.”

M-VETS’ visit was in preparation for a partnership between M-VETS and the CAAF to host a Continuing Legal Education event and reception at Scalia Law School in 2023.