Court Is Assembled
Substantive Mastery of the Law
This issue of the Army Lawyer pays homage to the concept of substantive mastery of the law. It is one of the foundational constants for the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, alongside stewardship, servant leadership, and principled counsel.
At its core, substantive mastery is our expertise in the law. It is the very essence of being a lawyer or paraprofessional. Regardless of the legal discipline in which you currently practice—administrative law, national security law, criminal law, legal assistance, or contract and fiscal law—you must be proficient in the substantive law. Our criminal law practice, for example, requires an absolute command of the Manual for Courts-Martial and developing case law. Those working in administrative law must be the Army’s ethics sentinels, guarding both the spirit and letter of the ethics regulations, and must also master the art of conducting quality, thorough investigations, which are arguably “Adlaw’s” bread-and-butter. National security law practitioners must have a firm and complete comprehension of International Humanitarian Law, as well as their operational authorities in order to help preserve commanders’ legal maneuver space on the battlefield. To develop these skills, you must research, read, study, and learn. There are no shortcuts. The subject matter must be doggedly reviewed, rehearsed, and practiced. As the law is ever-evolving, our obligation to stay ahead of the curve as legal professionals is lifelong, and it must be continuous and relentless.
Nevertheless, knowing the law is only one aspect of substantive mastery. It is essential, but alone it is insufficient. Substantive mastery entails not only the knowledge of the black letter law, but it equally requires knowing how to advocate. Knowing the rules is essential, but we must also put those rules into practice and communicate effectively. Many can cite a statute or quote a regulation, but the masters can provide clear, timely, and persuasive legal counsel to demanding clients under extreme time constraints. This is the true art of our practice. We must know the law, and we must master our craft.
This talent is even more critical when faced with legal gray zones, where the law is less definitive or clear. True master lawyers guide their client or commander through the rules, processes, and procedures to achieve the intended mission, and also help maneuver through the legal gray areas, while remaining on the right side of the law and our ethics.
This tradesmanship part of substantive mastery demands instinct, intuition, judgment, and experience. The question often turns on how to gain such experience when we are expected to be well-rounded advisors, and not singularly dedicated to one discipline. The answer is not to passively wait for experiences to be handed to you, but to actively seek opportunities. Experiences can be made through study, observation, and practice. Trial and defense counsel, as well as their supporting paralegals, cannot wait for the courtroom to perfect their presentations, which is why separation boards and military justice advisor roles are so valuable. Observing and assisting with other attorneys’ cases shows that you are a good teammate and develops your arsenal of skills. Similarly, we can also learn vicariously from the experiences of more seasoned practitioners in the field. Within national security law, most field-grade officers, legal administrators, and senior paralegals have been combat-tested. They are our actual and institutional knowledge reservoir. They know how to fight and win our nation’s wars, effectively and lawfully. Learn from them. The Corps, the Army, and the country cannot afford to wait until the onset of war for you to develop your substantive mastery as a judge advocate or a paraprofessional. As The Judge Advocate General would say, “sharpen your swords in the calm before the battle.”
Ultimately, in your pursuit for substantive mastery in each of our core legal practices, you will also mature as a well-rounded and dexterous attorney or paralegal, ready and able to meet the ever-changing challenges of our Army and our country in times of peace and war. TAL
News & Notes
BG R. Patrick Huston discusses the JAG Corps profession with the 69th Graduate Course at TJAGLCS. (Credit: Jason Wilkerson, TJAGLCS)
The All-American Division OSJA wants to congratulate the three officers who were recently accepted in to the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Funded Legal Education Program. This was the first application cycle that enlisted Soldiers were eligible to apply, making this year’s selection board exceptionally competitive. These paratroopers will begin law school in Fall 2021 and will be on their way to becoming the newest group of judge advocates! AATW! Pictured from left to right: COL Jeffrey Thurnher (SJA, 82d ABN DIV), 1LT William White (FLEP applicant, 3BCT), 1LT Angelique Margve (FLEP applicant, 82d ADSB), 1LT William Ratliff (FLEP applicant, 1BCT), and CPT John Reyes (Chief, Contract & Fiscal Law, 82d ABN DIV).
The Installation Legal Office (ILO) hosted the Fort Hamilton Tax Center Opening Ceremony on 25 January 2021. COL Craig Martin, USAG-FH Commander, cuts the ribbon while flanked by ILO personnel: Roderick O’Connor, Alma Whitelaw, Patricia Ingao, and Michael Huber. Four Fort Hamilton tax volunteers stand on the stairs. The two Adopt-A-Base tax attorneys (Mark Allison & Aaron Esman) are pictured in the forefront.
On 22 January 2021, the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk OSJA hosted the installation tax center ribbon-cutting ceremony. The Commanding General, BG David Doyle joined in celebrating the tax center being open for business. The ribbon was cut by the tax center OIC, CPT Jenekwa Harrison (left), the Commanding General, BG David Doyle (center), and the Staff Judge Advocate, COL Tiffany Chapman (right). Also pictured are Soldiers that will assist in preparing taxes this year, each representing a unit assigned to Fort Polk.
OSJA Soldiers with the 311th Signal Command (Theater) participate in January Battle Assembly with a trip through the gas chamber at Schofield Barracks. Pictured left to right: SPC Perez (TPU), MAJ Schmidt (AGR), SGT Michaud (AC), SGT Carter (TPU), SPC Schaber (AC), WO1 Tugaoen (TPU), and CPT Brow (TPU).
Two paralegals from separate components united under one common mission, Operation INHERENT RESOLVE. SPC Sandoval (left) from 4th ID and SGT Myers (right) from 28th ID are working together to provide timely and efficient legal support to commanders and Soldiers.
SSG Marquis Jones, NCOIC, Area Support Group-Qatar legal office, Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, recently received a coin from the Sergeant Major of the Army. SSG Jones was recognized by the SMA for asking an insightful question about the COVID-19 vaccine and for facilitating an ASG-QA NCOPD discussion on the Report of the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee. Patton’s Own! First Team!
On 18 December 2020, SPC(P) Jinelis Solis, 2IBCT, 25th ID, reenlisted for three more years, including 12 months of stabilization in beautiful Hawaii. Members of the Warrior Brigade legal section and the HHC, 65th BEB commander came together at Waimea Bay for the occasion. Pictured from left to right: CPT John Ruhl, CPT LeBuria Johnson, SGT David Willey, MAJ Chris Chatelain, SPC(P) Jinelis Solis, SPC Lelia Contee, SGT Ashley Kiley, CPT Vick Jaswal, and SFC Thomas Coyne. Congratulations!
On 17 December 2020, members of the Client Services Division at USAREUR-AF participated in the Virtual 5k Jingle Bell Jog. Pictured from right to left: MAJ(P) Craig Ford, SGT Dawon David, Ms. Christine Hauser, and CPT Katherine Evangelista. Not pictured: CPT Avery Ory, who completed her 5k while on leave in Texas.