Admiral Leading Navy's Legal Review Indicates Change Is Coming for JAG Community

FacebookTwitterPinterestEmailShare
U.S. Navy Lts. Tracy Hasse, left, and Michael Hughes prepare for a court-martial at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., March 20, 2013. (U.S. Navy/Lt. Ayana Pitterson)
U.S. Navy Lts. Tracy Hasse, left, and Michael Hughes prepare for a court-martial at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., March 20, 2013. (U.S. Navy/Lt. Ayana Pitterson)

The Navy and Marine Corps are in the final stages of months-long reviews into their legal communities, and the results could change the way those teams train, operate and organize, a top leader said last week.

The Navy has gotten help from outside legal experts as it conducts a sweeping review of its Judge Advocate General's Corps, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Robert Burke said Friday. He declined to discuss the final recommendations since the report hasn't been finalized.

"We have some solid recommendations ... tangible things that we can change about the JAG community," Burke, who is leading his service's legal review, said at the 2019 Military Reporters and Editors conference.

The recommendations have come from government experts, civilian lawyers and other outside organizations, he said. Those assisting the Navy with the review include prosecutors, defendants and judges who work in district and federal courts.

"We also brought in folks from the other service to see how they do it, just to see what we could learn," Burke said.

The review was set in motion by a host of blunders following a high-profile case involving Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, which caught the attention of President Donald Trump. In the aftermath of negative attention, the Navy secretary also ordered the Marine Corps to conduct a review of its staff judge advocate (SJA) community's practices.

Burke said a culmination of things prompted Navy leaders to order the review.

A lead prosecutor on Gallagher's trial had been kicked off the case for sending emails with tracking mechanisms to defense attorneys and a Navy Times journalist. And members of the prosecution in that case were awarded medals for "superb results," despite failing to secure a conviction.

Trump later ordered those medals to be rescinded.

"After some pressure on the JAG Corps to frankly do some retrospection and self-policing, if you will," Burke said, "... it wasn't very satisfying to CNO at the time, John Richardson, or I. So CNO set us on this comprehensive review course."

Related: Navy's Legal Review Is Overdue, Experts Say. But Will It Be Tough Enough?

The Navy and Marine Corps were given 90 days to assess their legal communities. They have until mid-November to assess the JAG Corps and SJA community's training, organization, oversight, staffing levels and career progression.

When the review was announced, some military legal experts stressed that getting feedback from outside the chain of command would be crucial.

"I'm pretty skeptical that the Navy investigating itself is going to do much better than the Roman Catholic Church did when they investigated themselves and the Boy Scouts investigated themselves," retired Navy Capt. Donna Price, who served in the Judge Advocate General's Corps for 25 years, told Military.com.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

Read more: Navy Audit Uncovered $126M in Aircraft Parts 'We Didn't Even Know Existed'

Show Full Article