Army Judge Advocates: About Their History and Importance

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When most people think of the Army, they inevitably think of war and weaponry, tanks and jets. What most don’t consider—at least at first—is that legal issues don’t stop once you join the military. On the contrary, the military needs to have a strict and consistent legal arm, to defend against both external and internal conflict.

General George Washington understood this to be true, and thus created the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps less than a month after independence had been pried from the clutches of the British. Today, the JAG Corps represents an incredibly important arm of the military, ensuring all branches have the legal support to complete their daily objectives.

JAG Corps Structure and Requirements 

Each branch of the military has its own arm of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, with the Army’s branch being the oldest. During the 20th century, the decision was made for each branch to have its own division, resulting in the structure we have now. 

The Army JAG Corps is headed by none other than the Army Judge Advocate General, overseeing all legal operations within this branch.  The Judge Advocate General is appointed by the U.S President and serves a four-year term roughly coinciding with each president. Holding the rank of lieutenant general, the Judge Advocate General has a great deal of responsibility and oversight duties.  The Judge Advocate General holds the same rank as the Army Chief of Engineers and Surgeon General.

Underneath The Judge Advocate General are positions of leadership such as the Deputy Judge Advocate, the Chief Judge of the U.S Army Court of Appeals, and the Commander of The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School (TJAGLCS).  Like any other division of the military, there is a stratification of leadership to ensure accountability and results. However, the vast majority of the 10,000 Soldiers in the Army JAG Corps are Judge Advocates (JAs) and paralegals.

The easiest description for an Army Judge Advocate is a lawyer/attorney for the Army. However, unlike some lawyers in the private sector, JAs will receive experience in many areas of the law, as opposed to staying within one sector.  Army Judge Advocates focus on international/operational law, fiscal law, intelligence law, criminal law, civil/administrative law, and more. Not to mention members of the JAGC traveling to countries all over the world, such as Afghanistan, Italy, South Korea, and Germany.

How Do I Become An Army Lawyer?

To become an Army JAG, you’ll first have to attend and graduate from an American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law school.  While in school, you will likely be given the opportunity to interview with Army screening officers who will determine if you are a good fit for the JAGC.  

2nd-year law students have the opportunity to experience a summer internship with the Army and can be paid up to $7000 for two months on an Army base anywhere in the world. If you perform well in this internship, you significantly increase the likelihood of being selected to the JAG Corps.

Once you have received your Juris Doctorate (J.D.), you are eligible to become part of JAG. However, you will still have to meet other Army standards, like security clearance, fitness/medical assessments, Officer courses and leadership, combat, and marksmanship tactics.  If you perform well in these areas, you may see action in the courtroom in as little as a few months to a year and develop a specialization.

JAG officers will start at a little under $45,000 in pay as of 2019, but generally are promoted to captain quickly and are awarded a pay raise to $51,000.  This pay does not include allowances for housing and general subsistence. The Army is nearly always looking for more JAG officers, so you will gain invaluable experience in the Army that may not be available in the civilian sector.

Tips For Landing A Job In JAG

As stated above, one of the best ways to ensure entry into Army JAGC is to participate in a summer internship.  You will have the opportunity to work with current JAs and paralegals, learn the structure and norms of military law, and develop a network within the Army.

It also helps to be sincere and firm in your motivations, abilities, and willingness to be a part of a team.   There is no minimum GPA or LSAT score for the Army. While those will likely play some role, Army screeners are looking for your characteristics as a person just as much as your skills as a law student.   Being confident, honest, and knowledgeable will go a long way for your interview and application.

Lastly, it is important to ensure you stay in physical shape.  Although you will be an Army lawyer, you will still need to fulfill the normal requirements to join the Army. Many candidates are rejected simply because they are not fit enough, both in JAG and in the military as a whole.

Matthew James Kozik, Experienced Judge Advocate 

The Matthew James, PLLC is headed by a former active duty Judge Advocate.   He served as a Judge Advocate primary focusing on complex litigation as a prosecutor and defense counsel.   During his time in the Army, he has received several military awards and currently serves as a defense counsel in the Army Reserve JAGC.

If you need criminal military law advice or would like more info about Judge Advocates, then give our firm a call to schedule an appointment.

Overcoming The Specter of Deportation: Important Legal Tips

brandon El Paso, TX, Immigration Leave a Comment

An American flag stands next to the border where people are deported regularly

For immigrants across the country, the threat of deportation is one of the most stressful aspects of daily life. Being uprooted from your job, family, and friends with no say whatsoever is heartbreaking.

Individuals who are at risk of deportation need to take the necessary precautions to lessen their risk of being deported. While it is possible to slow or stop a deportation proceeding before it’s complete, it is certainly not the ideal scenario.

As a prominent El Paso law firm, we understand the struggles immigrants face every day and stress they carry on their backs as they try to achieve the American dream. As such, we see many mistakes people make causing the wheels of forced removal to begin moving.

In this article, we’d like to discuss the many ways that deportation is triggered, and the tips you need to stay in the country.

Common Triggers For Deportation

First, we’ll take a quick look at the most common reasons for deportation. This way, you’ll know what to look out for.

Crime Violations

Yes, this one is obvious, but committing crimes is a quick ticket to deportation. The leeway for an immigrant is extremely thin; you don’t even have to be convicted to be deported.

If you commit a crime the offense could be classified as either a “crime of moral turpitude” (CIMT) or an “aggravated felony.” A crime of moral turpitude has no federal definition, but the courts usually define it as any act that is against standards of justice, honesty, and morality. It would have to be exceptionally vile or shocking to qualify in most cases. This can be incredibly vague, so it will be up to the immigration judge to decide what qualifies. A specific crime will not always be considered a CIMT in every case or with every judge. Examples of potential crimes of moral turpitude include:

  • Aggravated kidnapping
  • Robbery
  • Manslaughter or Homicide
  • Rape
  • Prostitution
  • Fraud
  • Child/Spouse abuse
  • Arson

In most cases, a crime of moral turpitude is something considered heinous regardless of your citizenship status. If your case is on the fence, expert legal representation may make all the difference in the removal decision.

A conviction from an aggravated felony will make you permanently ineligible for naturalization or asylum and may also lead to deportation. The list of aggravated felonies is extensive and changes state to state. However, there is a lot of overlap between what may be considered a CIMT or an aggravated felony.

The best bet will be to simply avoid committing a crime or at the very least not commit a very serious crime. In general, criminal violations are limited to what would be considered a crime for a U.S citizen as well.

Immigration Violations

In addition to criminal violations, there are immigration-specific violations that may also lead to removal from the U.S. These violations are typically much less serious than the required criminal violations, but may still result in deportation.

Working without proper documentation, overstaying a visa, improperly entering into the country, or being deemed inadmissible are all viable deportable violations. In fact, tens of thousands are deported each year for these reasons, many of which are easily avoidable.

If you’re not sure what constitutes an immigration violation in your situation, you can visit the Department of Justice page that has all of the violations listed.

I’ve Been Targeted for Deportation: Now What?

Photograph of a U.S. Department of Homeland Security logo.

The deportation process can be divided into two sections: expedited and traditional deportation. Under the current law, expedited deportation can occur if the targeted individual is within 100 miles of the border and has been in the U.S for less than two weeks.

In an expedited deportation, you cannot appeal in immigration court. However, you will be able to challenge the legitimacy of the deportation order and try to have it dismissed. This can be a risky gamble, so it’s important to weigh all your options first.

Traditional deportation is a much lengthier and more representative process. The U.S Constitution and immigration law system allow immigrants many protected rights, perhaps most importantly the right to a lawyer. The process will begin with a “Notice to Appear,” which dictates when and where an immigrant has to attend their removal proceedings.

When in court, the judge will set a bond amount, much like in the court proceedings that a citizen would undergo. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will have a government lawyer, but it is up to the immigrant to provide a lawyer for him or herself. Immigrants being represented by a lawyer can often receive more lenient bond amounts since government lawyers representing ICE often advocate for high bond or no bond set at all.

After the initial proceeding, the full process can take several weeks of hearings to be resolved. The government attorney will lay out a case for deportation, while the immigrant (and their potential lawyer) will lay out a case for remaining in the U.S. Even if the judge orders a removal, the decision may be appealed.

Passionate Deportation Defense with The Matthew James

For years, The Matthew James, PLLC has represented immigrants caught up in the deportation system. We know how stressful, draining, and frightening the process can be—that’s why we do everything in our power to keep our clients on American soil.

If you or someone you love has been handed a Notice to Appear, don’t believe deportation is inevitable. Give us a call right away so we can begin crafting a defense against deportation. We believe everyone has the right to justice, fairness, and prosperity. Let our firm advocate for your rights.

D.C. Laws Strip Thousands of Criminal Defendants of Their Right to a Jury Trial. One D.C. Judge Has Suggested That Should Change.

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Last June, wrestling with one of the stranger aspects of D.C.’s criminal justice system, one of the city’s most powerful judges made an unusual move: He suggested that the D.C. Council perhaps made the wrong call. His concern was that in the vast majority of states, anyone who’s facing jail time has the right to a jury trial, in order to ensure that all convictions are as fair as possible. But thanks to a pair of largely forgotten laws the Council passed in the 1990s, most defendants in the District don’t have any right to be tried by a jury. In 2018, more than 98 percent of misdemeanor trials in the District were bench trials, meaning a judge made the decision and no jury was involved.

In his concurring opinion in the June 2018 D.C. Court of Appeals decision Bado v. U.S., Bill Clinton-appointed Judge Eric Washington bemoaned this state of affairs. Going to jail for even a few months, he explained, can be life-shattering. People lose their jobs. They lose their apartments. They lose custody of their children. A criminal record can make future employers turn their noses up, and if someone’s already on probation, one “short” sentence generally translates into a second, longer one. “Most states recognize that a jury trial in criminal cases is critically important because of the stigma that accompanies a criminal conviction,” Washington wrote, “and many of those states accept the fact that any period of incarceration, no matter how short, can have a devastating impact on one’s life and livelihood.”

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Trump administration to expand its power to deport undocumented immigrants

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