Comparison of Military and Civil Justice Systems

It is an obviously known fact that the justice system of any country is supposed to be a mechanism. It takes into consideration some reasonable restrictions and fair addressing to morality. Therefore, this concept has to be developed from time to time in order to serve the public and federal interests as well as provide the most reasonable justice. One of the best ways to observe an ability of the justice system to correspond to the national concerns is the comparison to other justice systems. Actually, it is possible to compare it with the past periods or with the system of another country. In consequence, such comparison will not reveal any relations to contemporary times and the country. Thus, it is necessary to compare the justice system to another one existing subsequently and within the same country. Doubtless, the military justice system is appropriate for this comparison.

One may argue that a military justice system does not completely address public and national considerations. However, the intention of this comparison is to show whether the civil justice system is fair and reasonable. Taking this point into account, it should be said that this paper lingers upon the discussion of differences between the military and civil justice systems. Admittedly, this paper primarily holds a view that the military justice system should be discussed more. It is due to the fact that it still cannot provide any evidence of being researched from this perspective. Hence, this paper, first of all, gives a general description of both justice systems. Further, the military courts and justice are expected to be discussed as well. By the same token, it is important to compare the civil and military law and punishment. As the thesis and layout of the research have been outlined, the next section is as follows.

The Civil Justice System

It is worth mentioning that the civil justice system is actually composed of three components: the law enforcement, the court, and the correction. Speaking about the first one, police agencies are a primary field of activity for law enforcement. The main intention of this activity is based on the need of investigating and mitigating crimes. The further reference of these outcomes to the court of law should be also referred to.

Thus, the court of law is a body, which takes its responsibility of making judgments concerning the particular crime or controversy. It can be referred to as law. It is important to note that law is sourced with numerous policies, administrative regulations, and treaties. However, a main source of law is the Constitution. In such a way, the court of law makes some decisions regarding the particular case with addressing law. It is applicable to this case. As the majority of the Commonwealth countries, the U.S. court, first of all, provides the judgment by the body of the jury.

Eventually, the third major component of the civil justice system is correctional. In fact, it is the variety of terms, which describe supervision, treatment, recovery, and a punishment of individuals being convicted of committing a crime. To be more precise, it is the correctional or penal system. It deals with the outcomes of the crime investigation and related trials. In general, it is the component of the civil justice system being responsible for the punishment and recovery procedures. Having described the general structure of the civil justice system, the paper moves to the overall description of the military justice system.

The Military Justice System

For starters, it is necessary to say that the military justice system has been existing along the entire history of the U.S. army. Therefore, it should be admitted that it has been formed as the entire and separate sphere (Morris). Hence, the distinct differences are expected to be revealed. Actually, it is certainly true in numerous aspects regarding the layout of the military justice system. However, the main source of the military law is still the Constitution. Nonetheless, it is not similar to the civil sourcing of law.

As for the most drastic difference, it should be admitted that military justice is particularly focused on soldiers currently on military duty. Theoretically, civil people may be involved, but it is extremely rare evidence (Farell). Likewise, any soldier can be charged with violation of the military law in any location. It can be explained by the ethical basis of military law. It presupposes strict discipline and high responsibility for representing the country (Lynch). Conversely, it is worth saying that the military and civil laws coincide in many aspects. Namely, there is no considerable difference between the matters of prosecution. In other words, a soldier is charged with the same crimes as a civil person. Thus, the way of jurisdiction and a further punishment are obviously different (Lynch). As a consequence, these procedures are divided into three levels in accordance with three types of courts. They will be described in the following section. In such a way, the responsibility for breaking military law is tending to be more serious due to peculiar features of the military sphere. Having given the general description of both justice systems, the study moves on to the detailed discussion of military courts and justice.

The Military Courts and Justice


As it has been mentioned in the previous section, the layout of courts in the military justice system is divided into three categories: summary court-martial, special court-martial, and general court-martial. These courts are distinguished between each other by the extents of punishments, a level of commanding, and availability of the appellate process (Morris). To begin with, the general court is primarily aimed at initial processing of cases. Actually, this type of court is indirectly controlled by Federal Law. In other words, proceedings in this court cannot be held without the presence of an official attorney of a defendant.

Speaking about the summary court-martial in a more specific way, it does not necessarily require the presence of attorneys and a jury. To the broadest extent, it does not obey the federal conviction (Morris, 2010). It is also true in the case of an appellate procedure being limited to insight decisions only. What is more, the summary court-martial particularly deals with the violation of distinct military codes. One should not confuse them with the military law because the military code is a set of laws. They can be violated only in terms of military service.

Eventually, the special court-martial does not obey any federal conviction. It is available for a limited number of proceedings’ participants. It is usually the court for commanders with high ranks and those that have committed severe military crimes (De Hart). Actually, this type of court deals with such cases as issuing criminal orders or influencing the soldiers of lower ranks to act in a particularly illegal way. In other words, the main subject of proceedings in this sort of military courts is the excessive use of authority (De Hart, 2012). As the military court layout has been described, it is necessary to discuss the actual process of military justice.


As for the essence of military justice, its main statement should be referred to. It is based on an idea of promoting fair justice and discipline within the armed forces, as the representatives of the government. This statement implies to the fact that all members of armed forces are responsible for the obligation of the military law and its violation. Namely, soldiers are supposed to face a more complicated system of corrections and a punishment in accordance with the committed crime (Farell). To be more exact, the military justice provides three levels of correction and punishment. The first one is an administrative action, which usually means criticism, disapproval, demoting in rank, etc. However, this punishment can be more severe in a case of the so-called non-judicial punishment. It also implies some corrective measures but may include some restrictions on freedom or labor service (De Hart, 2012). The highest level of punishment is usually adopted by the court-martial, the types of which have been described in the previous section. It is not needed to say that these punishments are the strictest ones. They are regarded as the punishment for any criminal activity.

On the contrary, a commanding officer, whose subordinate has violated the military law, has the right not to take any preventive action. In other words, the process of accusation is related to commanding officers being responsible for making any decision on behalf of the particular segment of armed forces. However, in case the consequences of the committed crime have worsened. A commanding officer will be charged with the act of negligence (Farell, 2011). As a result, the military justice system is considerably different from the civil one. All in all, these are the main points regarding the process of military justice.

Law and Punishment

The Civil Law

To begin with the civil law in order to contrast it to the military one should be described. As it has been mentioned before, the main source of law is the Constitution. Therefore, the civil law addresses the main principles of the United States as the country with the society having its peculiar features. Thus, the civil law addresses some public considerations. As a consequence, the civil law corresponds to the main principles of the Commonwealth countries. They presuppose the court of law to apply to the particular case, while judgment is being made by a jury. Therefore, the publicity judges some actions aimed against it, while the court of law only guides honesty and fairness of proceedings.

Besides that, it is important to consider the peculiarities of the U.S. structure as the country. In other words, the civil law of the U.S. falls into different levels. Hence, the highest one is the federal law taking the authority over other laws due to the direct reference to the Constitution. Then, many states provide their own laws being underpinned by certain factors. In fact, they are supposed to correspond to the Federal and Common Laws. In other words, the state law does not have to conflict with other levels of law. However, it is applicable only in terms of the state’s area. By the same token, some local laws exist. They are applicable to certain areas, communities, or cities. Still, it is important to note that all these levels have to address the common law as well because it is a basis for the entire civil law within the United States.

The Military Law

For starters, it is necessary to say that the military law is also sourced by the Constitution. However, the military law addresses some other constitutional considerations (De Hart). To be more exact, the military law is not applicable to civil cases. Therefore, the military law is a constitutional regulation, which the representatives of the armed forces are supposed to obey (Lynch). Hence, the military law does not serve the interests of the publicity directly while the civil law does. In fact, the military law is supposed to provide discipline within the armed forces, promote fairness of actions and justice. It also burdens the armed soldiers with some responsibility for the national reputation (Lynch). Namely, the military law obtains a more ethical basis than the civil one.

Subsequently, the layout of the military law is less complicated. In fact, the main metrics for the military law have been already described in the previous sections: some extents of punishment and the level of commanding. Thus, the military law is applicable for every single representative of the armed forces while the seriousness of such responsibility may differ. For instance, an average soldier has been charged with vandalism. He has been sentenced to one month of imprisonment while a colonel is going to be sentenced to three years. In such a way, the representatives of high ranks are supposed to provide a perfect ethical example for their subordinates. Otherwise, they will be punished in a more severe way than average soldiers. Therefore, a higher rank within armed forces implies a stricter punishment in comparison with the principles of the civil law.

The Civil Punishment

In fact, the civil punishment presupposes several levels, but all of them are particularly focused on a preventive consideration. In other words, an individual committing a crime should be punished in order to understand that the violation of law leads to such severe consequences. The civil punishment takes rehabilitation into consideration. It means that breaking the law is commonly regarded as a harmful action towards society. Therefore, an individual that has harmed the society is supposed to work for its benefit. In addition, an individual being under the punishment is expected to reconsider his or her former actions in order to get socially and morally improved. Such a person should in such a way realize the malicious essence of the crime committed.

However, there has been a little agreement on numerous issues on the extent of punishment and appellate process. Nevertheless, it is possible to assume that the government provides citizens with the developed flexibility of law in order to make every single case unique. On the other hand, one may argue it does not guarantee fairness of the judgment. To be more precise, different people may be punished to various extents for the same crime. As a result, a wide range of amendments have been made in order to restore the balance between flexibility and honesty of the punishment. It is a rather complicated issue because of several levels of law. All in all, it should be admitted that the civil punishment is serving the interests of the entire society. This controversy seems to remain unsolved.

The Military Punishment

Speaking about the military punishment in a more specific way, it does not presuppose such numerous cases of a death sentence (Lynch). In other words, it is applied in the civil courts more frequently than in the military ones. At the same time, the military prisons are not the best way of punishing representatives of the armed forces. The sentenced soldiers are supposed to face some hardships of the military life in order to realize them being guilty (Morris). Hence, prisons are usually used for some short-termed punishments. A physical punishment is frequently used: flogging and colting instead of jails. It is the most widespread physical punishment within the armed forces and navy. Sometimes, soldiers are sent to continue their service in more difficult conditions: the so-called hell ships or hell battalions. Namely, these formations are used for serving the most difficult and dangerous functions. They are made of sentenced soldiers (Morris).

Hence, the overall strictness of the military punishment is obvious. On the contrary, the military punishment demonstrates a more profound consideration of the death penalty (Morris, 2010). Therefore, it should be admitted that the military punishment differs from the civil one with its strictness of average penalties. Meanwhile the civil punishment is being stricter on death sentences. It should be noted that the restriction of the overall freedom is not utilized by the military. Actually, the freedom of soldiers is limited in terms of their military service. The imprisonment does not make a sufficient sense of punishment (Morris, 2010). Eventually, these are the main points concerning the military punishment.


To conclude, the military justice system differs from the civil one considerably. In fact, the initial one is less complicated and serves quite different functions. Actually, the main principle of the military court stratification is based on such metrics as the level of command and the extent of punishment. Thus, the representatives of different ranks are punished for the same crime differently as well. In such a way, the military justice system promotes some strict ethical discipline within the armed forces. Meanwhile the civil one obtains a more preventive character. What is more, there are many details. They make both of these justice systems drastically different. As a consequence, they are recommended to exchange certain aspects for mutual improvement.

However, it is important to emphasize the fact that the civil justice system is stricter than the military one from the perspective of the death penalty. Hence, the direction for the further research on this subject should be suggested. Actually, some exact reforms being needed for the current state of the military and civil justice systems in terms of the mutual experience exchange have to be shown. The paper has revealed that both of the justice systems are sourced by the Constitution. Still, they address different considerations of law.

All in all, this paper has described the following issues. First of all, the general description of the civil and military justice systems is displayed in this research. Then, the study has discussed some peculiar features of military courts and jurisdiction. As a consequence, the military and civil law have been contrasted. In the same way, the military and civil punishment has been discussed as well.

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