US Court of Military Appeals

Apparent Unlawful Command Influence: An Unworkable Test for an Untenable Doctrine

Article 37 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) prohibits unlawful command influence (UCI) in military prosecutions. The prohibition of UCI, Vincent A. Marrazzo argues, is a critical component of the military justice system, ensuring both fairness and public confidence in the military prosecution process.

Marrazzo contends, however, that the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) has expanded UCI doctrine far beyond the textual confines of Article 37. In particular, the development of “apparent UCI”—which allows CAAF to set aside a finding or sentence for the mere appearance of UCI even if the apparent UCI did not materially prejudices the substantial rights of the accused—directly contravenes the Article 37’s requirement that such prejudice must exist in order to set aside a finding or sentence of a court-martial and also Article 37’s requirement that UCI must be intentional.

Although the doctrine of apparent UCI serves laudable goals, it is also in direct conflict with the text of the UCMJ. Ultimately, Marrazzo, concludes, a doctrine of apparent UCI may be desirable, but it is up to Congress, not the courts, to revise the UCMJ.

Lead Author

Vincent A. Marrazzo
Juris Doctor, Notre Dame Law School, 2022; Bachelor of Arts in Intelligence Studies, Information Technology, and Religion, Diplomacy, and International Relations, Mercyhurst University, 2019.
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