Appointment of Non-Lawyer Counsel in Courts-Martial Does Not Violate the Fifth or Sixth Amendment–United States v. Culp

Defendant, a Marine Corps private, was charged with larceny, and naval officers who were not lawyers were appointed as trial and defense counsel. The accused pleaded guilty to six specifications of larceny, and, upon trial by a special court-martial, was given a bad conduct discharge from the service. The board of review, on its own motion, held the guilty plea improvident and stated that, under the sixth amendment, the accused was entitled to counsel qualified in the law unless he had intelligently waived this right. Upon certification by the Judge Advocate General of the Navy to the Court of Military Appeals, held, reversed. Appointment of nonlawyer counsel who meet the requirements of the Uniform Code of Military Justice does not violate the accused’s rights under the sixth amendment. Two judges held the sixth amendment applicable to courts-martial and satisfied by non-lawyer counsel; the third judge, agreeing that non-lawyer counsel under the Uniform Code was adequate, held that the accused derived no rights from the sixth amendment. United States v. Culp, 14 U.S.C.M.A. 199 (1963).