Military Law Section

Edward L. Davis, chair

Fiscal year 2008-09 was a banner year for the Virginia State Bar Military Law Section. Several members of the Section Board of Governors traveled the world in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Three of them defended high-profile courts-martial throughout Iraq while one served as chief counsel for a military commission at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Among the high-profile clients defended by our own is alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. These attorneys brought back a wealth of information from their various duties, greatly increasing the breadth of networking opportunities available through the Military Law Section. Last fall, the nation of Afghanistan called upon the Virginia State Bar for assistance in developing its own bar association. Afghanistan reported back that the response from the Virginia State Bar was overwhelming, with forty-five attorneys volunteering to assist in this important endeavor.

The Military Law Section also heard from the chief of legal assistance at Fort Eustis about the need for uniformed legal assistance officers to assist their aggrieved military clients in Virginia courts. For several years, Rule 1A:6 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Virginia has permitted non-Virginia legal assistance attorneys to apply for limited admission in Virginia for this very purpose. An unfortunate obstacle has been the costs of doing so, which many junior officers cannot afford and which the federal government cannot pay. The American Bar Association expressed its concern about this to the VSB leadership and the Supreme Court. Again, Virginia responded — this time through the Court, which sliced in half the fee for the Mandatory Professionalism Course to help reduce these costs. At this time the Military Law Section Board of Governors is exploring the use of grant money to help defray these costs further.

The section, with the invaluable assistance of the VSB Publications Department, undertook to recruit attorneys willing to assist aggrieved military clients, dependents, and retirees on a reduced fee or pro bono basis. The section felt this necessary because many needy military clients do not qualify for legal aid or other pro bono military referral services because of their rank (enlisted ranks E-2 and below for legal aid, E-6 and below for other referral services). These attorneys will be available to assist aggrieved military clients regardless of rank. Further, the VSB Lawyer Referral Service agreed to waive its normal $35 referral fee under these circumstances. Attorneys who wished to join the list of attorneys willing to assist Virginia military clients on a reduced fee or pro bono basis were encouraged to provide their résumés to board of governors member Christopher M. Dunne at Christopher.m.dunne@uscg.mil.

The section wrapped up the year with its annual CLE Program on May 15, 2009, at Geiger Hall, Marine Corps Base Quantico. This free program included instruction about veteran’s and disability benefits presented by Mark D. Matthews, an adjunct law professor at the College of William and Mary and a former U.S. Army judge advocate; family law issues for military families presented by Dwain Alexander II of the Navy Legal Services; and one hour of ethics presented by Virginia State Bar Counsel Edward L. Davis, a retired colonel, in the U.S. Army Reserve. I would like to thank our VSB liaison Dolly Shaffner for her dedicated assistance with the CLE and all of the section events.

The section developed a five-year plan that includes increasing its membership to raise more revenue so it can publish a second newsletter and continue presenting its annual CLE programs at no charge.

The section governors for 2009-10 will be Neal Allen Puckett, chair; Andrea Elizabeth Brotherton, vice chair; Christopher Michael Dunne, secretary; Edward Lee Davis, immediate past chair; and Marcus Anton Brinks, Richard James Prevost, Charles Robison Allen Jr., Gary Michael Bowman, Mark Daniel Matthews, Cynthia Harrison Norwood, Dena Marie Panecaido, Prescott Lee Prince, and Matthew Wastcott Smoth.

Updated: Sep 01, 2009