What To Look For In A Civilian Military Lawyer.
“Experience.” You need to hire a civilian military lawyer with a former JAG background in handling military cases. You want a civilian military lawyer who is a former JAG, but not just one who handled basic JAG duties on some remote base or post with a low OPTEMPO. You want a former JAG who has a heavy trial background on a various range of cases with different types of offenses under the UCMJ. There are many former JAGs who attempt to represent military members facing courts-martial but still lack the experience. Some of these civilian lawyers, however, are former JAGs whose military careers were almost solely dedicated to Military Justice, whether as a prosecutor and/or defense counsel. Mr. Gapasin dedicated his JAG career and his private practice to military justice, having served as a former JAG Defense Counsel, former Senior Defense Counsel (in charge of an office with JAG defense counsel), and as a former JAG Prosecutor (for one of the busiest jurisdictions on one of the largest military installations in the world). Gapasin was also assigned as a Part-Time Military Magistrate, in which he was formally trained by a Military Judge to handle the duty of ruling on the probable cause of search and seizure warrants, i.e., granting or denying the warrants.
A solid military background and trial experience as a former JAG is important. Do not hire a civilian lawyer unless you first know what their JAG military background is when you first speak with them.
“Consistently Good Results”. Second, when you look to hire a civilian military lawyer, look for “consistently good results”. Consistency is important because it tells you that the lawyer has methods and techniques that work and that are proven. A lawyer with consistently good results can approach any case, and pulling from their background and experiences, the lawyer can take the case and apply methods that work. Consistency is an overall important quality in a winning civilian military lawyer. You will find under “Notable Cases” that Mr. Gapasin gives the dates of his trial results to show how consistent his results are over time. This is what you need to be successful. You may see other civilian attorneys’ sites and they may not provide any dates for when or how they obtained a successful result. Perhaps a civilian lawyer includes a successful result, but that case may have been 5 or 10 years ago. Gapasin includes the dates of successful results and this reflects his consistency. Mr. Gapasin’s courtroom methods and techniques work. Don’t be fooled by sham marketing like an attorney showing off fake books or giving a fake news interview in some imaginary television studio. Instead, look for consistently good results, this is all that matters.
“Do you go with the free, detailed JAG lawyer?” One of the most important concerns you should have when facing charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice is the experience level of the JAG defense counsel who may be randomly detailed to handle your case. The court-martial you currently are or will be facing is a pivotal moment in your life, career, and family. Having an experienced, seasoned defense lawyer is key to obtaining a successful result. The simple truth is that a majority of JAG defense counsel are inexperienced. You want the peace of mind that you are doing everything possible to exhaust all available courses of action to be fully acquitted of the charges and to salvage your career. Now there are some JAG defense counsel who have sufficient experience to successfully represent you, but can you take that risk with so much at stake?
Are You Facing A Similar Legal Situation? Then You Definitely Need An Experienced Civilian Counsel.
- Military law enforcement wants your permission to search your home, computer, and personal things?
- You are the next target of the military’s overly aggressive, indiscriminate sexual assault policy?
- You are being investigated and no one has told you why and even your command refuses to give you any details?
- Your commander orders you to write out a “sworn” statement about what happened even though you want legal advice?
- You go to an off-post restaurant and see the prosecutors in your case having lunch with your detailed JAG lawyer? (This happens regularly in JAG military offices everywhere).
- An officer was appointed to investigate your legal situation and wants you to come in and write out a statement?
- Your detailed JAG lawyer keeps telling you to sign off on the Chapter 10 discharge for an Other Than Honorable discharge even though you want to stay in the military?
- Military law enforcement told you that agreeing to do a polygraph was the best way of closing the investigation against you?
- Your chain of command, the prosecutor and your detailed JAG lawyer tell you that taking nonjudicial punishment is your best choice even though you are innocent and want to fight the allegations?
- You are being told that if you agree to nonjudicial punishment rather than a court-martial, your unit promises not to initiate separation proceedings afterwards — but they don’t want to put it in writing?
- Did you sign a sworn statement against your will or without knowing your rights?
- Your detailed JAG lawyer is trying to convince you that you will be convicted if you don’t sign the guilty plea even though you already told him that you are in fact innocent?
There are several reasons why JAG defense counsel could lack the experience to successfully represent you. Understand that as young Officers, JAGs are expected to diversify their military careers with different assignments. The disadvantage to you as the client, then, is that your JAG defense counsel may be a jack of all trades but master to none. You deserve to have a lawyer who focuses his entire practice on Courts-Martial Defense. Your detailed JAG counsel has likely held his position as a defense lawyer for less than 18 months, and most likely for less than 2 years. It is normal for JAGs to represent service members as a defense lawyer for a limited period of time before their orders are cut to report to the next assignment. In such a short period of time, you cannot expect a new, young JAG officer to be fully familiar with the types of issues or charges you are facing. Be sure to inquire with your JAG lawyer about their experience level. Ask him or her about the results of their last 10 cases. If they cannot think of 10, ask about their last 5 cases. Ask: were they trials, or just guilty pleas? Understand that “trials” in the JAG Corps can also mean 2-3 hour Guilt Pleas in court which basically follow a written-out script. Do not be scared or embarrassed to ask about their trial experience. It is your right to be represented by a lawyer of your choosing. If the JAG cannot articulate the results of his last 10 or even last 5 cases, or if the results of his cases were all guilty pleas, then you should be concerned about their experience level and ability to stand up to the government in a military courtroom.
Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, you have the right to hire a lawyer with a level of experience and skill you feel comfortable with. Unfortunately, the more experienced JAG lawyers are Government Counsel. The JAG Corps is doing everything possible and funneling all of its resources to get more convictions and to compensate for the lack of experience of its younger prosecutors. More than ever, you need to hire a lawyer with experience and competence. If you do not feel comfortable with your detailed military lawyer, then remember, it is your right to hire an attorney with the resume and the experience.
Another Concern Is Command Influence.
Your JAG defense counsel may also find it difficult to fully and aggressively represent you in a court-martial. One of the main reasons is due to command influence. One of the reasons the military court-martial system exists is to combat the negative effect of Unlawful Command Influence. Unlawful Command Influence (UCI) occurs when senior personnel, intentionally or inadvertently, have acted to influence court members, witnesses, or others participating in military justice cases. Unlawful command influence is extremely destructive to ensuring that an accused gets his full and fair day in court. UCI happens every day in military courts of all branches. Incidents of unlawful command influence may be more subtle in some cases, but your lawyer should do everything possible to make sure UCI does not negatively effect your case. Unfortunately, some JAG defense counsel may not do everything possible to eliminate unlawful command influence out of fear of angering fellow JAG colleagues who are prosecutors. Also, the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate provides logistical and administrative support for JAG defense lawyers. As a result, some JAG defense lawyers simply do not want the frustration of dealing with an angry Staff Judge Advocate who could make the workplace difficult. So much of the JAG defense counsel’s office is provided by the OSJA. The supplies such as paper, and the equipment, to include computers and copy machines, are generally provided to the defense office by the prosecutors sitting on the other side of the aisle. Because almost all JAG defense lawyers who go to trial are O-3s, prosecutors (usually O-4s or higher) may use rank to influence the outcomes of trials and to intimidate JAG defense counsel. A civilian counsel, however, is fully immune to the unlawful command influence that can negatively affect your case.
Attorney fees can be expensive. This is understood — but you have so much at stake. Step back, and think about how damaging a bad conduct discharge or dishonorable discharge can be when you seek employment after the military. A BCD/DD can cost you thousands of dollars in the civilian world because it prevents you from getting hired to a better job. Think about the consequences of a reduction in rank on your pay check or even loss of retirement benefits. This is also a loss of immeasurable thousands of dollars over time. Consider how your life will unalterably change if you have to register as a sex offender. The result of your court-martial, separation, or appeal can greatly impact the quality of your life as it regards your finances, career, integrity, and family. Sex offender registration is a life sentence, don’t you think hiring the most experienced, competent lawyer is a small price to pay for protecting your way of life? No fee should be too much considering how much your life could change after your court-martial. You absolutely must make a wise investment in your future.