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Military Law Research

This guide provides an overview of research strategies and resources for military law courses at UNC School of Law, including military justice, the law of armed conflict, and national security law.

Uniform Code of Military Justice

Uniform Code of Military Justice

Uniform Code of Military Justice

Enacted by Congress in 1950, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is the foundation of military justice law in the United States. It underwent a major revision in 1968 and is codified at 10 U.S.C. Ch. 47. You can access the UCMJ from a variety of different legal resources:

  • GovInfo: Provides access to an authenticated version of the U.S Code in PDF format. It is a reliable source for obtaining the text of the UCMJ itself, but you will not find any additional supporting or explanatory materials. (Free online resource.) 
  • Lexis Advance: Provides access to the United States Code Service, an annotated version of the U.S. Code. Annotated codes can be useful tools for the legal researcher because they connect the UCMJ to related primary and secondary source materials. (Access limited to UNC Law Faculty and Students.) 
  • Westlaw Edge: Provides access to the United States Code Annotated, an annotated version of the U.S. Code. Annotated codes can be useful tools for the legal researcher because they connect the UCMJ to related primary and secondary source material. (Access limited to UNC Law Faculty and Students.)
UCMJ Legislative History

Legislative history is one source for researching legislative intent behind a statute. The Congressional Record, House and Senate Reports, and hearings are all forms of legislative history records that enable a legal researcher to track the discussion and debate surrounding a new law and obtain a clearer understanding of legislators' intent in passing the law.

Military justice legal researchers have multiple database options for locating a compiled legislative history of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (1950). The following resources all provide compiled legislative histories:

  • Law Library of Congress - Military Legal Resources: The U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Legal Center & School Library maintains a comprehensive legislative history of the UCMJ. The homepage for the project also provides access to several other major military justice statutes, including the Military Justice Acts of 1968 and 1983. The full legislative history for the UCMJ can be accessed at this link. (Free online resource.)
  • HeinOnline: HeinOnline also provides access to the Index & Legislative History of the UCMJ (1950). This collection contains hearings transcripts, and the House and Senate Reports.  (Available to the UNC Community.)
  • ProQuest Congressional - Legislative Insight: Provides access to compiled legislative histories. ProQuest provides the most comprehensive set of the compiled federal legislative histories, and it provides easy access to all bill versions, Congressional Record entries, House and Senate Reports, committee prints, and presidential signing statements. The database also allows researchers to run keyword searches in the text of all compiled documents. This is a useful tool that can help you sort through voluminous amounts of legislative history and target topics of interest. (Available to UNC Law Faculty and Students.)

Manual for Courts-Martial

Manual for Courts-Martial

Manual for Courts-Martial

The Manual for Courts-Martial ("MCM") is promulgated by executive order of the President and serves as the official guide to conducting courts-martial. The MCM is composed of five Parts and twenty-eight appendices:

Organization of the MCM
Part I Preamble
Part II Rules for Courts-Martial
Part III Military Rules of Evidence
Part IV Punitive Articles
Part V Nonjudicial Punishment Procedure

New editions of the MCM are published periodically, and any amendments (historically referred to as "changes") are published separately and identified by the date of the edition of the MCM to which they apply. You can see a clear example of this updating practice from the Library of Congress's Military Legal Resources Collection at this link. With the publication of a new edition, all prior amendments are fully incorporated into newest edition. The most recent edition was released in 2019. 

The MCM is available from a variety of sources, including several sources that also provide access to superseded editions:

  • Law Library of Congress - Military Legal Resources: The U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Legal Center & School Library maintains a comprehensive archive of MCM editions, and it also provides access to the current MCM. Researchers can also access amendments to the MCM from this website. (Free online resource.)
  • Joint Service Committee on Military Justice: The JSC is an inter-agency body of judge advocates and advisors charged with ensuring that the MCM and the UCMJ constitute a comprehensive body of criminal law and procedure. Their website provides access to the current edition of the MCM and any recent amendments. (Free online resource.) 
  • Lexis Advance: Lexis Advance provides access to the 2019 version of the MCM and some earlier editions. Lexis Advance also provides access to "Topic Summaries" for each Part of the MCM that provide definitions for key terms and additional links to seminal cases, secondary sources, and relevant statutes. (Available to UNC Law Faculty and Students.)

Supplemental Material to the MCM

The Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security also publish supplementary material to accompany the MCM. These materials can be found throughout the MCM itself and include the "Discussion" sections accompanying the Preamble, RCM, and Punitive Articles, and the appendices. They provide additional interpretation and explanation for the application of the MCM. While the supplemental materials are not themselves legally binding, they are treated as persuasive authority in interpreting and applying the MCM. See United States v. Lazauskas, 62 J.J. 39 (C.A.A.F. 2005).

A compilation of the Supplemental Material for the 2019 edition of the MCM can be viewed at this link (opens as a PDF). (Free online resource.)

Military Judges' Benchbook

Military Judges' Benchbook

The Military Judges' Benchbook, also known as Army Pamphlet 27-9, is designed to provide military judges of courts-martial with overviews of trial procedure and assistance in the drafting of instructions to the court. This source is typically used in conjunction with the UCMJ and the MCM, and it is available from the following sources:

  • U.S. Army Trial Judiciary Website: This website provides access to the latest version of the Military Judges' Benchbook, along with access to any interim updates. (Free online resource.)
  • Lexis Advance and Westlaw Edge: Lexis Advance and Westlaw Edge both provides access to the latest version of the Military Judges' Benchbook. While both databases hyperlink to primary law citations with the text, they do not contain any additional annotated or editorial content. (Available to UNC Law Faculty and Students.)

Regulations & Other Issuances

Regulations & Other Issuances

Military regulations and related publications are published in a variety of resources. Many, but not all, military regulations are published in the Code of Federal Regulations, while other military regulations are available through publications from each military branch. The following is a list of the general sources for military regulations.

Code of Federal Regulations

Many, but not all, military regulations are codified in Title 32 (National Defense) in the Code of Federal Regulations. Title 32 is broken down in Parts based on the different military branches:

  • Department of the Secretary of the Defense: Parts 1-399
  • Department of the Army: Parts 400-699
  • Department of the Navy: Parts 700-799
  • Department of the Air Force: Parts 800-1099

You can access the CFR for free via GovInfo or view annotated versions of the CFR in Westlaw Edge or Lexis Advance.

Military Law Regulatory Publications

Military regulations and supporting materials can also be published in a variety of different formats, including as instructions, handbooks, manuals, directives, pamphlets, etc. Each military branch publishes its own set of regulatory publications, and researchers should check these sources for additional regulatory guidance not codified in the CFR.

The majority of these sources are available for free on military branch websites, but Westlaw Edge also provides access to a collection of military law regulatory publications: