Written by attorney Matthew Scott James

Three Reasons to Hire a Civilian Defense Attorney for Your Military Court-Martial

There are three important reasons to hire a civilian defense attorney: Experience. Time. Independence.

Experience. When it comes to military court-martial defense, experience counts. Just like with any professional service, from medicine to auto mechanics, you should look for a military defense attorney with experience. Some military services have a selection process, and some do not. When I served in the Air Force, military defense counsel were chosen by the Judge Advocate General from the very best the service had to offer. The Navy, on the other hand, would often assign a defense attorney to have no trial experience at all. In many cases in all services, free Government attorneys are young attorneys.

I have handled criminal cases since 2001. I have been trained by both legendary trial lawyers and nationally recognized trial teachers. I have personally performed hundreds of trials as the lead attorney and handled thousands of criminal cases. I also have years of experience as an Assistant State’s attorney and a military prosecutor, which means I can analyze your case from the other side and anticipate the Government’s trial tactics and strategy. As a court-martial attorney in the Air Force, I had a stunning acquittal rate and saved many clients from lengthy jail sentences and discharges. If you choose me as your court-martial attorney, my experience and training are at your service.

Time. In my experience, the key to winning a trial is preparing for trial. Unfortunately, many free Government attorneys don’t have the time to thoroughly prepare an excellent court-martial defense. In addition to your case, they likely have hundreds of other clients facing courts-martial, Article 15s, demotions, discharges, and other actions. Your case is just one hundreds or even thousands.

If you choose me as your court-martial attorney, I will dedicate my time and attention to your case. My goal is to provide my clients with the best defense possible— the type of defense I would want for my own children. To ensure each client receives the best defense, I manage the number of clients I accept so that I have the time I need to thoroughly prepare each court-martial defense. Abraham Lincoln, a great attorney in his own right, famously said that if he had six hours to cut down a tree, he would spend four hours sharpening his ax. I agree and have adopted his philosophy in my own legal practice.

Independence. Your free Government attorney works for the Government. The Government pays their salary. They report to and receive orders through their chain-of-command. They are subject to the policies of the military. During training, military attorneys are taught that they are military officers (or riflemen) first and attorneys second. Many free military attorneys spend a year or so as a defense attorney before moving on to become advisors to commanders.

As a civilian court-martial attorney, I do not report to or receive orders through a chain-of-command. No Staff Judge Advocate or commander can call my supervisors through back channels if they are unhappy with my aggressive defense. I am not worried about holding anything back or saving any “silver bullets." As a civilian, I can fire every round I have. While many free Government attorneys advertise an independent chain-of-command, I have no chain-of-command. If you choose me as your court-martial attorney, I will work for you.

Finally, if you choose a civilian court-martial attorney, you don’t need to fire your free Government attorney. Your assigned military attorney can remain a trusted member of the defense team.

In the end, your choice of attorney is your choice, and it remains your choice throughout the court-martial process. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me for a free initial consultation.

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