Military service members that have been accused and charged with some sort of crime that will go to court-martial are given the option to use an appointed defense counsel, just as if they had been charged in civilian court. While this choice may seem tempting due to fact that there are no legal fees involved, it is generally not the best solution for someone who really wants to protect his or her rights as a military service member. Just as there are considerable downsides to using a public defender in the civilian court system, using a military appointed attorney can be quite disadvantageous.
An appointed military defense counselor might be:
- Inexperienced: Frequently the military attorneys who are appointed to represent service members pending court-martials have minimal litigation experience. You certainly do not want to be the first case that your defense attorney has ever taken to a jury trial. Likewise, if your case is going to involve negotiation of a plea agreement, you certainly want an attorney who is experienced in your corner to argue your position. Unquestionably, the government counsel is going to give heavy consideration to who the defense counsel is when determining what concessions to make in a plea agreement. When the case gets to trial, the inexperienced defense attorney will likely be reading from his/her notes during arguments to the court. Yes, this will not cost you a dime – but is this how you want to be defended?
- Impersonal: Due to the military relationship between the lawyer and client, which is frequently Officer – Enlisted, there is a natural tendency for the client to feel some hesitancy in the communications with the military lawyer which regrettably can adversely affect the ultimate outcome. It is essential that the attorney-client relationship be one in which trust flows both ways. Frequently we hear comments such as “My military lawyer gets paid by the Army, so he’s not going to help me. You have to be able to talk to your attorney and rank should not in any respect pay a factor!
- Limited in Support Staff: Typically the support staff available to the military defense attorneys is very limited at best. It is unlikely that there would ever be a paralegal specifically assigned to your case that you can contact and speak to as necessary.
- For these reasons and more, you will most likely benefit the most from hiring your own civilian attorney. But this raises the question, “How can you choose a good civilian attorney?”
Qualities in a Civilian Attorney to Look For
To begin, you are going to want to find a civilian attorney that focuses exclusively or near-exclusively on military law cases. Criminal defense experience is great but it isn’t exactly the same as a military defense case. There are plenty of stipulations, regulations, and so forth that make a military defense case unlike anything else in the country’s legal system.
Along these same lines, a civilian lawyer with military service experience is absolutely necessary to secure a proper defense in a court-martial. This inside perspective on not only how military law is formed but also why military court-martials rule the way they do is an insight that really cannot be replaced. Lastly, of course, you will want to work with someone who genuinely cares about the outcome of your case and your future as a proud member of the United States Armed Forces.
At McCormack & McCormack, Attorney Greg McCormack has over 38 years of military law experience, including a background as a former United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps member. Clients all across the nation and overseas know that the experience, know-how, and compassion provided by Greg McCormack is unparalleled. If you want to learn more about our law firm, or if you know you need our service right away for a military defense case of your own, do not hesitate to call to schedule a free initial consultation.