The Navy Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps celebrates 50 years of service and excellence Dec. 8.
“From the time the Navy created the ‘law specialist’ program, to the JAG Corps we know today, the Navy’s legal team has made a difference every day – providing steady counsel and advice to keep us from running aground ethically and on the right course always,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer.
The JAG Corps hosted a commemorative event Dec. 7, at the U.S. Navy Museum in Washington, D.C. Retired and active-duty judge advocates, as well as other local colleagues, enjoyed remarks from community leaders before cutting a cake to mark the historic anniversary.
“The Navy JAG Corps is a profession with purpose. Every day, around the world, judge advocates are contributing to the Navy mission, shouldering a weighty responsibility with honor and humility,” said Vice Adm. James W. Crawford III, who currently serves as the Navy’s 43rd JAG.
“I am proud to have worked alongside so many dedicated, talented professionals, both past and present.”
On Dec. 8, 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation that formally created the JAG Corps of the Navy.
(The Army JAG Corps offers a wide variety of practice experience to new officers. Judge Advocates practice in the US, overseas, and in deployed environments. Courtesy of US Army JAG Corps and YouTube)
It established active-duty lawyers as a distinct professional group – naval officers focused on the delivery of a wide range of legal services.
Since its inception, the JAG Corps has grown and evolved to meet the demands of an ever-changing world.
From the establishment of Naval Legal Service Command (NLSC), to the creation of the Victims’ Legal Counsel Program, to the expansion of operational law, the JAG Corps has been ready to respond to emerging issues.
(Every year, about 80 new attorneys enter the Navy JAG Corps. Discover the transition these law school students and practicing attorneys go through to become lawyers for the United States Navy. Unlike many young lawyers in the civilian sector who spend their early years performing research as junior associates, Navy judge advocates begin litigating cases and counseling clients soon after they begin active duty. Navy judge advocates are exposed to the myriad of legal issues found in today’s Navy including criminal law, international law, administrative law, tort law, legal assistance, maritime law, and environmental law. Courtesy of Courtesy of US Army JAG Corps and YouTube)
Today, the mission of the JAG Corps is to provide commanders, Sailors and Navy families with targeted legal solutions that enable effective naval and joint operations.
“The rich history of the JAG Corps is a source of great pride for all of us,” said Rear Adm. John G. Hannink, deputy JAG and NLSC commander.
“Our current judge advocates are making their own mark on our legacy and the future of the JAG Corps has never been brighter.”
“We do not work alone,” he added.
“Judge advocates practice alongside enlisted personnel and civilians in order to support the worldwide fleet. We share this milestone with all of them.”
Today’s JAG Corps includes more than 1,300 accomplished Reserve and active-duty judge advocates practicing in many disciplines, including international law, military justice, administrative law, admiralty and maritime law, environmental law, legal assistance, information operations and intelligence law.
The JAG community’s identity statement – dedicated to service, committed to excellence – illustrates the strong work ethic shared by judge advocates and their colleagues, as well as the high standards to which they adhere in their daily work.
Judge Advocates, Then and Now
By Rear Adm. John G. Hannink, Deputy Judge Advocate General of the Navy
Upon learning that the Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps is only 50 years old, most people express surprise.
One could be forgiven for assuming the JAG Corps has been around for far longer.
Since its inception Dec. 8, 1967, the JAG Corps has been essential to naval operations.
Furthermore, the scope and breadth of advice has grown since our Corps’ foundation, to the point that we’re at today – where our personnel advise clients across the globe on matters that range from the most sensitive national security decisions, to individual legal services, to Sailors in need of our assistance.
Indeed, Navy judge advocates have long captured the public’s imagination.
I am still asked regularly about the “JAG” television show and few have forgotten Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise sparring on the big screen in “A Few Good Men.”
Their portrayals in popular culture have made judge advocates indelible symbols of naval service.
Some people also are surprised to learn that the first uniformed chief legal officer of the Navy was, in fact, a Marine. Col. William Butler Remey was assigned to the post in 1878 after convincing Congress that, like other branches of the military, the Navy needed a permanent JAG (e.g., the Navy had a “JAG” long before the JAG Corps).
Remey actually argued that naval law was so unique that a line officer must serve as JAG. It wasn’t until 1950, nearly 75 years later, that the law required the JAG to be an attorney.
In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation that formalized the creation of the JAG Corps.
Today, a half-century later, the JAG Corps is a very different organization. It has evolved in countless ways to meet the demands of a growing military and a more interconnected and complex world.
Judge advocates are now ever-present fixtures at most naval commands. And yet, I wonder how many Sailors have a comprehensive understanding of the myriad ways judge advocates support them and the Navy mission.
It’s impossible to capture everything the JAG Corps does in a single blog post. It is perhaps best to highlight our three core practice areas – the three ways in which we touch Sailors and their families every day.
Our military justice team strives to help ensure good order and discipline, and protects the rights of all parties in judicial proceedings.
Trial counsel, defense counsel, judges and victims legal counsel work tirelessly on behalf of Sailors and their families, and to protect the integrity of the military justice system.
Our operational lawyers provide commanders with accurate and responsive legal advice to support military operations and sound naval administration.
We have attorneys specializing in maritime law, international law, environmental law and many other disciplines.
Our judge advocates are on the cutting edge of many emerging issues, such as cyber warfare and special operations.
Do you need a will, help with your taxes or perhaps home-buying advice? Our legal assistance team supports the fleet by helping Sailors and their families resolve personal legal matters and to remain mission-ready.
A judge advocate or civilian subject matter expert is standing by at any time to help Sailors with all their concerns and more.
Today, as it turns 50 years old, our JAG Corps is more versatile and more ingrained in naval operations than Remey, Johnson or any of the JAG Corps’ earliest members could have envisioned.
To learn more about the 50th anniversary of the JAG Corps or about the services provided by judge advocates and their colleagues, visit www.jag.navy.mil/.