On 5 May 2022, Lieutenant General Stuart W. Risch officially opened the U.S. Army Advocacy Center. Located at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, the Center is the Corps's newest legal training institution, and it meets a long-standing need for members of our Corps to be better advocates at courts-martial and civil proceedings.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the large number of courts-martial being tried in the Army meant that it was relatively easy to develop courtroom advocacy skills. In 1970 alone, for example, Army lawyers tried some 48,000 special courts-martial.1 The end of a draftee Army after the Vietnam War and the emergence of today's more disciplined and professional force, however, resulted in a significant drop in the number of trials: last year, the Army tried fewer than 575 courts-martial.2 While this is a welcome development in terms of good order and discipline, it has meant that the days are over when one developed advocacy skills by prosecuting and defending courts-martial. The solution was obvious: create a training institution focused on developing and honing advocacy skills.
Modeled after the Justice Department's National Advocacy Center in Columbia, South Carolina, the nearly 9,300-square-foot, $7 million facility has seven state-of-the-art courtrooms and a large training room with the newest audio-visual technology. The Advocacy Center's goal is to develop and enhance the advocacy skills of judge advocates, civilian attorneys, and paralegal specialists in support of military justice and civil litigation programs. This mission takes on even greater importance with the recent legislative changes to our legal practice.
Some of the Advocacy Center's courses are likely to adopt an interdisciplinary approach and invite attorneys and paralegals to train simultaneously. Other courses will be narrowly tailored for a specific litigation subject. The intent is for the Advocacy Center to be the primary destination for the Corps's post-Judge Advocate Officer Basic Course advocacy training programs. The Trial Counsel Assistance Program, the Defense Counsel Assistance Program, the Trial Defense Service, Trial and Appellate Judiciary, and the Special Victims' Counsel Program office, among others, will work closely with the Advocacy Center staff to develop a training calendar that incorporates course descriptions and the latest legal developments.3
The Advocacy Center also intends to incorporate lessons learned from the field to better understand the use of the newest methods, practices, and technologies in our courtrooms. Ultimately, the Advocacy Center hopes to be acknowledged as the premier advocacy training facility in the Department of Defense and the lead proponent in ongoing efforts to increase advocacy skills across the services. Future courses, as well as photographs of the Center, are available now via the Advocacy Center's website on JAGCNet.4
Mr. Mike Mulligan, who leads the Advocacy Center, stresses that the new institution will not replace existing advocacy training. Rather, as he puts it, the Center “will change us from effective practitioners to expert practitioners . . . [the Center] will be the crown jewel of litigation and advocacy training” in the Defense Department.5 TAL
1. The Army Lawyer: A History of The Judge Advocate General's Corps, 1775–1975, at 254–55 (1975).
2. E-mail from Jim Herring, Clerk of Ct., Army Ct. of Crim. Appeals, to author (May 23, 2022, 3:04 PM) (on file with author).
3. There is even a plan to host night classes for interested personnel to earn advanced degrees in national security and cybersecurity law or national security and U.S. foreign relations law from George Washington Law. U.S. Army JAG Corps, GW Law Courses, Facebook (May 19, 2022), https://www.facebook.com/ArmyJAGCorps/posts/pfbid0oVg2dR9TmZb8RUG84FMSKm12vUHMjZYZpTCHPe4pu5PugQVh8xyLKNyQNHGeNMxkl.
4. Advocacy Center, U.S. Army JAG Corps, https://www.jagcnet2.army.mil/Sites/Advocacy.nsf/home.xsp (last visited May 19, 2022).
5. Margaret Steele, Army's First Advocacy Center Opens on Fort Belvoir, Def. Visual Info. Distrib. Serv. (May 10, 2022), https://www.dvidshub.net/news/420373/armys-first-advocacy-center-opens-fort-belvoir.