Reid v. Covert,
354 U.S. 1 (1956)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Reid v. Covert, 354 U.S. 1 (1957)

Reid v. Covert

No. 701, October Term, 1955

Argued May 3, 1956

Decided June 11, 1956

Rehearing granted November 5, 1956

Reargued February 27, 1957

Decided June 10, 1957

354 U.S. 1


Article 2(11) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, providing for the trial by court-martial of "all persons . . . accompanying the armed forces" of the United States in foreign countries, cannot constitutionally be applied, in capital cases, to the trial of civilian dependents accompanying members of the armed forces overseas in time of peace. Kinsella v. Krueger, 351 U. S. 470, and Reid v. Covert, 351 U. S. 487, withdrawn. Pp. 354 U. S. 3-78.

Judgment below in No. 701, October Term, 1955, affirmed. 137 F.Supp. 806, reversed and remanded.

MR. JUSTICE BLACK, in an opinion joined by THE CHIEF JUSTICE, MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS and MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN, concluded that:

1. When the United States acts against its citizens abroad, it can do so only in accordance with all the limitations imposed by the Constitution, including Art. III, § 2, and the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. Pp. 354 U. S. 5-14.

Page 354 U. S. 2

2. Insofar as Art. 2(11) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice provides for the military trial of civilian dependents accompanying the armed forces in foreign countries, it cannot be sustained as legislation which is "necessary and proper" to carry out obligations of the United States under international agreements made with those countries, since no agreement with a foreign nation can confer on Congress or any other branch of the Government power which is free from the restraints of the Constitution. Pp. 354 U. S. 15-19.

3. The power of Congress under Art. I, § 8, cl. 14, of the Constitution, "To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces," taken in conjunction with the Necessary and Proper Clause, does not extend to civilians -- even though they may be dependents living with servicemen on a military base. Pp. 354 U. S. 19-40.

4. Under our Constitution, courts of law alone are given power to try civilians for their offenses against the United States. Pp. 354 U. S. 40-41.

MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER, concurring in the result, concluded that, in capital cases, the exercise of court-martial jurisdiction over civilian dependents in time of peace cannot be justified by the power of Congress under Article I to regulate the "land and naval Forces," when considered in connection with the specific protections afforded civilians by Article III and the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. Pp. 354 U. S. 41-64.

MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, concurring in the result, concluded that, where the offense is capital, Art. 2(11) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice cannot constitutionally be applied to the trial of civilian dependents of members of the armed forces overseas in times of peace. Pp. 354 U. S. 65-78.

Page 354 U. S. 3

Primary Holding

Constitutional protections are not suspended for U.S. citizens in foreign countries, so they are not subject to military jurisdiction. Also, the Constitution supersedes international treaties. NOTE: See United States v. Ali, 71 M.J. 256(C.A.A.F. 2012)( This case deals with amendments to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which allows for court-martial jurisdiction of civilians serving with the U.S. armed forces into certain "combat" (my word) zones.

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