Advancing a Deeper Understanding of Military Law

Even a vacuum doesn’t operate in a vacuum.

The Supreme Court has said:

Military law, like state law, is a jurisprudence which exists separate and apart from the law which governs in our federal judicial establishment. This Court has played no role in its development; we have exerted no supervisory power over the courts which enforce it; the rights of men in the armed forces must perforce be conditioned to meet certain overriding demands of discipline and duty, and the civil courts are not the agencies which must determine the precise balance to be struck in this adjustment. The Framers expressly entrusted that task to Congress.[1]

This conception presumes military law has developed and evolved in a vacuum, separate and apart from the society in which it exists. I believe this conception is not only overly simplistic, it is flat out wrong.

The Center for the Study of Military Justice (“C4SMJ”) envisions a community of disparate scholars sharing their expertise and advancing the study of military justice. To that end, its mission is to create, cultivate, and celebrate these scholars and this community.

What does that mean?

Rich scholarship and commentary has been and continues to be published that not only furthers knowledge in that respective area, it can inform a deeper, holistic understanding of military law and history.

That is the goal of C4SMJ.

C4SMJ seeks to build a platform that brings together insightful and thought-provoking scholarship to build the premier destination for the interdisciplinary study of military law, history, and society.

We are a liberal bunch. We want to help you succeed in your discipline. And by doing so, we hope to advance our understanding of military law, its history, and its society.

The middle of a worldwide war is the least ideal time to start discussing the proper boundaries of a military justice system. And our history and legal system requires us to engage in this discussion.

As C4SMJ develops its platform, it seeks to celebrate such scholarship on this temporary site. What does that mean? The topics are nearly endless. Here are just a few ideas off the top of my head:

  • Criminal Justice (Why do we punish? History of this practice. Benjamin Rush?)
  • Policing (Historical practices and bases)
  • Property law (Rules of inheritance, etc.)
  • Evolutions in criminal law
  • Medieval history
  • Evolutions in constitutional law
  • Traditional military history (Why 3 deep rank and file v. 2 deep? Impact of weapons advancement? Improved tactics? What did discipline mean?)
  • Histories of the social experience by those who served (particularly interested in this).
  • Federal courts/jurisdiction (How do they work? Why do they work this way? What is their purpose?)
  • History of the Jury (very interested in this topic!)

These are just a few topics. As C4SMJ builds its eventual platform, we want to share and celebrate scholarship that, though distinct from the study of military law, informs our deeper understanding of this area of law.

We will do our digging, but pass along your accomplishments or those of others you’ve read.

Err on the side of inclusion. This is an emerging academic area. Let us exclude rather that lose out on the benefit of insightful scholarship.

Rodrigo, President
Center for the Study of Military Justice


[1] Burns v. Wilson, 346 U.S. 137 (1953).

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