Bipartisan senators seek to boost expertise in military justice system

Bipartisan senators seek to boost expertise in military justice system
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

A bipartisan pair of senators has introduced a bill aimed at bolstering expertise in the military justice system by creating a career litigation track for the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps.

“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,” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said in a statement Thursday.

Right now, military lawyers in the Army, Air Force and Marines rotate between assignments from prosecutor to administrative lawyer, without specializing in one role. The Navy already allows JAGs to specialize in litigation.


The bill from Ernst and Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandIntelligence leaders warn of threats from China, domestic terrorism Jon Stewart accuses VA of being 'an obstacle' to burn pits medical care Family policy that could appeal to the right and the left MORE (D-N.Y.) would require each branch of the military to allow a portion of its JAGs to specialize in litigation.

The lack of specialization has been raised as an issue for years, with lawmakers previously attempting to create a career track.

Last year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) ultimately required a review of creating a career track, a provision spearheaded by Ernst and Gillibrand.

“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 Thursday. “Our service members — both victims and defendants — deserve the best.”

Gillibrand likewise cited sexual assault cases as a reason to create a career litigation track.

“Because JAGs transfer so frequently, most do not gain the necessary experience to try cases, defend the accused, or represent a survivor adequately,” she said in a statement. "Moreover, JAGs are encouraged to have a broad range of experience, which means that a JAG who has very little experience trying cases may be assigned to a complex sexual assault case. Our service members deserve better. Our bill will change that and model the military justice system after the civilian system where lawyers become experts in their fields.”