We’re Going to Need a Bigger Cake: Military Law and the Marine Corps Birthday

MarineCorpFounded on November 10, 1775 when the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution decreeing that “two Battalions of Marines be raised” the United States Marine Corps is the second oldest branch of the Armed Forces, founded a mere 4 months later than the (Continental) Army. The Marine Corps maintains an extensive history of the organization on its site and even provides a scanned copy of that original resolution. This year the United States Marine Corps celebrates 240 years of service and birthday cake really does factor into the celebration—senior members of the Corps cut a cake and pass the first piece to the most junior member in attendance to symbolize the passing of experience and knowledge to the next generation. Speaking of experience and knowledge, the Marine Corps, like other branches of the Armed Forces, is subject to specialized military laws contained in the United States Code.

Flag_of_the_United_States_Marine_Corps.svgMilitary Law covers not only disciplinary actions like those depicted in movies à la a Few Good Men or tv’s JAG but also covers civil actions involving service personnel and some government contract matters.  The United States Code Title 10 Armed Forces offers provisions on military organization and powers, training and personnel. There are even separate subsections devoted to each branch of the military (the Marine Corps is covered in Subtitle C, 10 U.S.C. § 5001 – 7920).

However, much of Title 10 is devoted to disciplinary and justice matters. The Uniform Code of Military Justice, adopted in 1956, provides procedures for the arrest/detention, trial, and sentencing of military personnel in military courts (courts-martial). These specialized courts even have their own evidence rules, the Military Rules of Evidence. Uniformed attorneys practicing in these courts are employed either by the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps if they serve in the Army, Navy, or Air Force or by their services’ Legal Division if serving in the Marines or Coast Guard. Their caseload is not limited to criminal matters and many also handle civil cases, contract matters, and labor law issues or they may provide legal assistance to service members, retirees, and their families. Several Villanova Law Alums have worked as military attorneys including Captain Megan Schmid (’11) and Professor John Cannon. Students have completed summer externships with various branches including the Army JAG Corps.

Administrative regulations also play an important role as the Armed Forces are governed by regulations from the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security and those promulgated by each service branch (see Titles 32 & 33 of the Code of Federal Regulations). The military (and, to a great extent, each branch) has a language all its own and deciphering the many acronyms can be difficult. For these reasons and many others, researching this area of law can be quite a challenge. Below are a few resources worth reviewing but for an in-depth discussion of resources and research techniques, check out Chapter 9: Military and Veterans Law in Specialized Legal Research. This chapter was authored by Villanova Law’s own Vicenç Feliú and provides background information and citations to the major Military Law primary and secondary sources.

Below are a few sources available in our library collection. You can also conduct a subject search in ARTHUR for “military law” to view additional resources including many government documents:

General Resources:

JAG Corps/Legal Division Resources:

Online Resources:

Westlaw features Military Law as a topic on its Practice Areas tab. Databases featured include cases, regulatory publications, and administrative decisions for each service branch as well as trial court documents and briefs. Numerous secondary sources are also available including law reviews and newsletters from the Air Force, Army, and Navy and practice guides such as Handbook of Crimes and Defenses in the Military and Military Law: Criminal Justice and Administrative Process.

Lexis Advance also has a Practice Area page for Military & Veterans Law and offers similar primary materials as well as military news databases and additional secondary sources not available on Westlaw such as Military Criminal Justice: Practice and Procedure and Military Evidentiary Foundations.

Semper Fi!

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