The JAG Corps at the Hispanic National Bar Association’s Fiftieth Anniversary Conference
By Captain Ellis R. Cortez
In celebration of its fiftieth anniversary, the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) hosted attorneys, judges, Fortune 100 business leaders, public officials, and law students at its annual convention on 17-19 September 2022.1 Throughout the three-day event, which took place at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C., national policy makers and leading practitioners met for fruitful discussions. They provided expert guidance and discussion on a variety of practice areas, recent Supreme Court developments, advocacy, mentorship, and Hispanic representation throughout the legal profession.2 The convention’s theme, “Honoring our Legacy,” illuminated the HNBA’s proud history and accomplishments.
Judge advocates (JAs) from the Army, Navy, and Air Force Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps were present for all three days of the convention to represent the various Corps by engaging with attendees at networking events and panels. They, too, celebrated the HNBA’s anniversary milestone.
On the first night of the convention, the Army, Navy, and Air Force JAG Corps collaborated to host a reception for young lawyers and law students.3 More than a dozen JAs interacted with attendees, educating them about their respective military services, their experience in a variety of practice areas, and the diverse opportunities available to military attorneys. The litigation experience that JAs can gain relatively early in their careers and the wide variety of roles that JAs can have throughout their time in the Corps resonated with many attendees who expressed their interest through pointed questions about how to apply.
On the convention’s second day, the HNBA’s Military and Veteran Law Section presented a continuing legal education (CLE) panel composed of active duty Service members from multiple military services. The panel, titled “Hispanics Serving as Legal Advisors on the Front Lines: Diversity Equity & Inclusion in the Service,” fell within the convention’s “Hot Button Issues for 2022 and Beyond” category of events.4
The panel consisted of Service members from diverse Hispanic backgrounds, including Colonel Luis Rodriguez, Deputy Director, U.S. Army JAG Corps Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Colonel Jose Cora, Chief, U.S. Army Contract Litigation and Intellectual Property Division; Captain Geraldo Padilla, Force Judge Advocate, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, U.S. Navy; and Major Marisol Salvejo, Deputy Staff Judge Advocate, 502d Installation Support Group, U.S. Air Force.
Major Lynmarie Rivera, LL.M. candidate, The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School, U.S. Army, moderated the panel, and Captain Gabrielle Lucero, Trial Counsel, III Corps, U.S. Army, provided the opening remarks and introductions. The panel discussed the principles of national security law, including rules of engagement, the use of force, operational funding, and how the United States addresses actions against state and non-state actors. Colonel Cora shared his experience at Army Futures Command, and Majors Rivera and Salvejo described their combat deployment experiences.
Senior leadership from the Office of the Army General Counsel and the Army JAG Corps provided remarkable support to the event. The Honorable Carrie Ricci, Brigadier General David Mendelson, and Brigadier General Ronald Sullivan were all in attendance. They each addressed the audience, emphasizing the importance of service and the inherent strength that comes from having a diverse legal team.
Brigadier General Mendelson opened the panel with a history of the Army JAG Corps. He described the nature of our rulesbased organization and discussed different practice areas within the Corps. He then addressed how we are still standing alongside commanders on the front lines on today’s battlefields, just like Lieutenant Colonel William Tudor, the Army’s first Judge Advocate General, stood with General George Washington. Later in the panel, Brigadier General Sullivan highlighted the uniqueness of our dual profession and emphasized that JAs take their oath not to an individual, but to the U.S. Constitution.
Within a matter of minutes, the CLE presentation quickly became a standing-room only event! Audience members expressed that they were intrigued by the roles JAs play in the national security realm and the assistance they provide to their legal assistance and trial defense clients. Attendees asked questions concerning legal ethics, immigration and refugee law, military courts-martial, and humanitarian law. The panelists also discussed Hispanic representation in the U.S. military services’ JAG Corps, and provided a presentation on the diversity and inclusion initiatives of each Corps.
After the formal portion of the CLE panel concluded, many audience members quickly approached the panelists and the senior leadership to ask follow-up questions about the presentation and careers in the Corps. Attendees also inquired about opportunities to serve as JAs in the Army Reserves.
The military panel—along with the entire HNBA convention—was a notable event that addressed issues of importance to the Nation’s Hispanic community and celebrated Hispanic legal professionals’ many contributions. The Army JAG Corps’s robust participation throughout the convention was also a reminder of our own diversity. The event’s theme, “Honoring our Legacy,” brought to mind the recent sentiments of Lieutenant General Stuart Risch, The Judge Advocate General, U.S. Army, and Brigadier General Alison Martin, Commanding General of The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School: that thanks to our rich JAG Corps history and diverse background, “we share a legacy of which we can justifiably be proud.”5 TAL
CPT Cortez is the Editor-in-Chief of the Military Law Review at The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School in Charlottesville, Virginia.
1. 2022 Annual Convention, Hispanic Nat’l Bar Ass’n, https://hnba.com/2022-annual-convention (last visited Dec. 9, 2022).
2. See id.
3. Hispanic Nat’l Bar Ass’n, 2022 HNBA/VIA Annual Convention 87 (2022), https://hnba.com/ wp-content/uploads/2022/09/FINAL-NOTICIAS-2022-AC-AGENDA-2.pdf.
4. Id. at 91.
5. Lieutenant General Stuart W. Risch et al., JAG Corps Birthday Message, U.S. Army JAGCNET (July 29, 2022, 10:03 AM), https://www.jagcnet2.army. mil/Sites/jagc.nsf/homeDisplay.xsp?open&documentId=ECA29618AB185BF28525888E004C9A29; E-mail from Brigadier General Alison Martin, Commanding General, The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School to The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School Personnel (Nov. 13, 2022, 4:00 PM EST) (on file with author) (In her weekly TJAGLCS message, Brigadier General Martin stated, “I’m grateful that you all chose to be part of [the military] legacy, and I encourage you to reflect again on the oath you took to support and defend those values.”).