Roles in the Corps: Marine Corps Judge Advocate
I sought a commission in the Marine Corps because I felt that there would be no other way to gain that sort of experience and leadership through a regular civilian law, uh, position. As a civilian lawyer your first couple of years are spent in a law firm. Here, they're spent in a courtroom. Here, they're spent leading young Marines.
When you work for the Marine Corps you are working for something bigger than yourself. The experience that you'll get as a First Tour Judge Advocate in the Marine Corps is huge. Trial experience, running your own cases, dealing with clients. Uhm, that's just something that doesn't happen right away in the civilian world. There's a year long training pipeline starting with OCS, TBS, and then on the law track, Naval Justice School, NJS; I feel like they've prepared me well to do what I'm doing now.
As a judge advocate I learned about putting a case together from start to finish. I learned about long hours. I learned about how important it is to protect the rights of victims. I learned how important it is to stay true to yourself. I learned about moral courage and doing the right thing, even when it's incredibly hard.
It was just kind of amazing how people at our age, two or three years out of law school, uhm, are playing such an important role in something with such gravity. You could be advising a colonel, to an infantry battalion. You could be playing the role in civil affairs to rebuild a government. Just incredible responsibilities.
I, I derive a certain sense of pride from being a Marine Corps Judge Advocate. My job--and we rotate through many jobs--but my job is either helping out Marines that truly need our service or making the Marine Corps a stronger place. And to me there is no higher calling than that.
To become a Staff Judge Advocate in the Marine Corps, uh, it takes obviously time, uh, education, experience. A Staff Judge Advocate is the, is the principal or the primary legal advisor to a commander. If you were in a deployment environment obviously, law of war or rules of engagement are going to be the, uh, the center of the things that you do. But you also have the other collateral judge advocate responsibilities of advising them on military justice issues, disciplinary issues, uh, and, and things of that, that nature.
The primary difference between the role of a military judge and a civilian judge is the fact that civilian judges have jurisdiction pretty much 24-seven, whereas a military judge has jurisdiction over the specific cases that are referred for trial by convening authorities or, or commanders.
It's a great opportunity to be able to interact with young, new judge advocates, to help mentor them, help improve their practice of law. I get to observe them, give them feedback. I really believe that, uh, that how we learned to practice law is by teaching each other.
As a judge advocate and as a military judge, you're going to be presiding over cases that draw a lot of media attention potentially. It's important that you stay neutral. It's important that you don't get distracted by the media or outside influences and that you preside over cases and you handle cases in a fair and impartial way.
The key experiences that I faced throughout my career that led to my current position as a Military Judge were my assignments as a prosecutor, which we refer to as a trial counsel in the Military Justice System and my experiences as a defense counsel in various locations throughout the Marine Corps.
I decided to become a Marine lawyer because I thought I could serve in two capacities. One, serve Marines and Commanders as a lawyer but also have that overarching service to the country as a Marine.
In the end it's about serving each other and being part of this really special organization and the honor to, to lead them. Just like I have the honor right now to lead a small group of lawyers. It's very, very rewarding and getting your Commission is the first step towards experiencing that reward and getting those those benefits for being part of this organization.