Developing (Or Not) Uniformed Counsel for Military Justice

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It is not my job to develop uniformed counsel. Each of the services has an organization charged with training its counsel. I do not work for them, although I am sometimes invited to collaborate and to teach them.

Years ago, I offered to uniformed counsel to come and work with me in drafting the cross-examination of the complainant in a sexual assault case. For the most part, they made it a priority, and I feel like learning was occurring in both directions. Best of all, the cross-examination benefited from the collaboration, which means the client benefited.

I also made it a habit of setting meetings to go over my cross-examination checklist for all government witnesses. What were the points we needed to make on cross to set us up for success in the closing argument?

There was a shift in about 2018 when counsel stopped accepting my offers. Maybe that shift is attributed to them having a comfort that I did my job and even if they did nothing the case would be in good hands. Maybe it represents laziness – they just don’t want to learn. Maybe it is a matter of bandwidth – capacity – as I sometimes like to call it.

Whatever the reason, all signs point back to my realization that when I stepped away from wearing the uniform, I left behind my responsibility that training uniformed counsel is a part of my job.

I still chuckle at a conversation I had recently with Cody Harnish, who now works with my office. Somehow the topic of a prior administrative separation board that I handled came up. He reminded me that he had been the detailed counsel. I laughed. I had some general awareness that there had been a detailed counsel on the board, but I did not have any specific memory who it had been, or anything close to knowing that it had been Cody. This is not to say that Cody did not contribute – I always as the detailed counsel to let me know if they see any need for additional questions or follow-up.

Cody reassures me he learned from me during that process. So, learning occurs. But I did not undertake to train him any more than he obtained insight into how I think and how I execute.

It once frustrated me that detailed counsel did not take advantage of the opportunity to collaborate in preparation. Then I realized that I am not served by that energy. I also am not served by taking time out to be intentional in training uniformed counsel who did not want to accept those opportunities. And that has nothing to do for the reason behind their not stepping in for those chances.

For me, these days, as I take an earnest look at what could be any legacy I leave behind, I remain focused on the reality that time is a non-renewable resource, and that where I place my energy should be intentional.

I hope learning happens. Perhaps my series on Shaping the Battlefield in Military Practice will train uniformed counsel. Maybe not. But my conscience is clear and my path is clearer: serve the client, not the military.

 

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