The Law Office of Jocelyn C Stewart specializes in assisting service members in any area where their livelihood and liberty are at risk.
Because the military is command-driven (meaning commanders have the discretion to choose the path alleged misconduct will take), it is vital that service members obtain specialized counsel. There may be exceptional criminal defense practitioners in a given local area. Those practitioners may be tapped into local civilian prosecutions and may even be experts in a given area, but they do not also have the skill, experience, and understanding of the military’s unique system and even more unique culture.
Our services include assistance at the investigative stage when a member first learns that the command or military law enforcement or even civilian law enforcement suspect the member of an offense. Those services can include private investigative efforts. We conduct an independent investigation to determine if materials or a statement should be turned over to the military.
Legal Advice and Guidance
Attorneys advise the member each step of the way. A retainer means more than wait and see.
Answers to Investigation Questions
When the independent investigation and advice determine that a service member should respond to questions, our attorneys vet the questions and work with the member to provide carefully worded answers.
Responses to Derogatory Findings
For Field Grade Officers with the added due process right of responding to derogatory findings in a command investigation, the Firm’s counsel work hard to counter those findings with legal analysis and contrary evidence.
Responses to Derogatory Actions
If the command pursues a derogatory administrative action like a letter of reprimand, we are available to ghost-write the response. Our team members collect supporting sworn statements, affidavits, and other evidence.
Administrative Separation Representation
If the member has six or more years in service or the command is pursuing an Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharge, that member is entitled to an administrative separation board. For Officers that board is known as a Board of Inquiry and are sometimes referred to a “Show Cause Board.” This means that the command is pursuing a firing action to cause the member to leave the service with less than their full honorable characterization of service. When that happens and our lawyers handle the strategy and representation for those hearings.
If the member has fewer than six years in service, the member’s recourse is to respond in writing by submitting “matters” to the convening authority. Our attorneys draft response matters and help accumulate matters in defense, mitigation, and extenuation. Those matters are geared toward convincing the convening authority why he or she should rescind the administrative separation and to retain the member.
Many members do not realize that if they survive an administrative separation board or even before a board initiates, they can apply to remove derogatory information from their personnel records. The firm routinely files those applications on behalf of our clients, and we also routinely obtain relief.
Whether there is derogatory information in a service member’s file can impact the grade at which they retire.
Grade Determination Actions
When a member becomes eligible to retire, if there was derogatory information in that person’s record, the member will be served notice that they are undergoing a grade determination. In most circumstances, that decision is made by a board who reviews documents only. The submission is critical, and our Firm handles assembling those matters on behalf of clients. These boards have the ability to administratively reduce a member to the grade at which they are said to have last served honorably, which can mean a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars over the life of a retirement.
If the command brings charges (the preferral of charges), special military practitioners of the Firm will handle representation at the first stage known as the preliminary hearings (known as Article 32(b) Preliminary Hearings).
If the hearing officer finds probable cause on any offense and the case is sent forward, then our attorneys also provide the service of drafting military motions and trial representation.
Recognizing that not every service member has the resources to hire private counsel for full representation, there may be other ways we can help. Providing trial consultation to the uniformed defense counsel, ghost-writing motions for counsel, strategizing and advising the trial team how best to pursue the case is a service we now also offer.
Because justice should not be for sale. But sometimes it can sure seem that way.
The best strategy is to win at trial. We understand that does not always happen, and if a trial court made a determination of guilt, we have court-martial appellate specialists with a winning record of obtaining post-trial relief. Appellate work includes reviewing the record of trial to scrutinize every choice made by the attorney who represented the member during trial (was there ineffective assistance of counsel?) and of all rulings made and overall if there are any arguments to make about factual insufficiency.
In addition to these main services, we can handle nearly every nonjudicial or administrative action the military lodges at one of its members.
Scheduling a consultation can provide clarity on the details for those services. A great indicator of the potential for a good outcome can be the past results of an organization. Please bear in mind that all cases are unique.