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Bill to Create Career Tracks for JAGs

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By Debbie Gregory.

A bill introduced by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, would require each branch of the military to allow a portion of its Judge Advocate General (JAGs) to specialize in litigation.

“The lack of specialized JAG litigators that currently exists in many branches of our military is an injustice to our service members who may be hindered from receiving the best trial possible,” said in a statement Thursday.

Aimed at bolstering expertise in the military justice system by creating a career litigation track for the JAG Corps, the bill would put military lawyers in the Army, Air Force and Marines to be on par with the Navy, which already allows JAGs to specialize in litigation.

“Improving our military justice system will ensure victims of sexual assault and other crimes receive legal advice from well-qualified, experienced JAGs in the military justice system,” Ernst said. “Our service members — both victims and defendants — deserve the best.”

The bill aims to:

  • Increases prosecutorial experience, ensuring victims, including sexual assault survivors, work with seasoned prosecutors
  • Develops seasoned defense counsel
  • Empowers new JAG officers by providing an experienced co-counsel in the courtroom
  • Creates a talent pipeline of experienced litigators
  • Provides protection for skilled litigators who otherwise may have been forced out of military justice practice or military service due to lack of jobs for military justice practitioners at higher ranks or a preference for generalists

Senator Ernst and Senator Gillibrand also implemented a review of this program in the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.

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