Already equipped with a J.D., five of the military’s lawyers are further honing their chops at the University of Virginia School of Law, where they will earn master of laws degrees in the Graduate Studies Program this spring.
Judge advocates are commissioned officers serving as legal advisers to their assigned command. They provide legal advice and assistance in a wide variety of practice areas, including serving as prosecutors and defense counsel in courts-martial, and their focus may vary based on service branch, assignment and geographic location.
Like students pursuing a J.D. degree, military attorneys pursuing an LL.M. can choose from nearly 300 courses in a typical year at UVA, allowing them to explore a number of topics.
“This year the JAGs plan to focus on international and national security law, cybersecurity, criminal law, trial advocacy and environmental law,” said Adriana Vito, assistant dean for graduate studies.
JAG officers taking classes in pursuit of their LL.M. at UVA shared what their service means to them and how their advanced degrees will help them with their mission.
The views expressed in this piece are those of each individual officer and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of the Navy, Department of Defense or U.S. government.
Position: I most recently served as the senior prosecutor at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, which is one of the largest and busiest criminal jurisdictions in the U.S. Army. In that position, I supervised five prosecutors, four paralegals and two civilian administrative assistants. Our office’s mission was to pursue justice by convicting and appropriately punishing the guilty and protecting the rights of victims.
Area of Expertise: During my nine-year career as an Army judge advocate, I have developed expertise in both criminal litigation and national security law.
Law school (J.D.): University of Iowa College of Law
What’s the most rewarding part of your service as a JAG officer? The most rewarding part of serving as an Army judge advocate is the unique and enduring opportunity to practice law in a truly consequential way. I started my career as a national security law adviser. In that role, I advised Army commanders in South Korea, Japan and the United States. I was then fortunate to practice criminal law as a prosecuting attorney, representing the U.S. government in felony-level criminal cases. Later, I returned to a national security law role and deployed multiple times to both Iraq and Syria in support of contingency operations against ISIS.
What do you hope to learn earning your degree? I will serve as an environmental law litigation and compliance attorney at the U.S. Army’s Environmental Law Division in Washington, D.C. In that role, I will advise and represent the U.S. Army and its officials on matters related to environmental litigation and regulation enforcement. While here at UVA, I hope to gain a deeper understanding of administrative law, civil litigation and environmental law.
Position: My next assignment is senior defense counsel at Kaiserslautern, Germany.
Area of Expertise: While remaining versatile, I have specialized in military justice and criminal law.
Law school (J.D.): University of Dayton School of Law
What’s the most rewarding part of your service as a JAG officer? The most rewarding parts of serving in the Army JAG are the clients I have represented through difficult situations, the unique and unparalleled opportunity to hone my craft as an advocate and, most importantly, the people I am privileged to serve with.
What do you hope to learn earning your degree? I am spending my time this year deepening my expertise in criminal law and justice to become a better trial lawyer and to effectively train, teach and mentor the next generation of judge advocates who practice military justice.
Position: During my last assignment in Hawaii, I served as the deputy counsel of operational law at U.S. Pacific Fleet, the world’s largest fleet command. There, I provided legal advice on Naval operations in the Indo-Pacific and led 30-plus lawyers in multilateral military exercises.
Area of expertise: Military investigations, ethics and regulatory compliance, and maritime law; at UVA, I am focusing on international and national security law.
Law school (J.D.): University of Texas School of Law
What’s the most rewarding part of your service as a JAG officer? The most rewarding part of serving as a Navy JAG officer is the unique opportunity to serve my country and work alongside professionals who are committed to public service. Military personnel come from all walks of life, and it’s an honor and privilege to serve with such a diverse group of Americans.
What do you hope to learn earning your degree? I hope to develop a thorough understanding of international and national security law, and apply those foundational legal principles to real-world legal problems in a variety of military assignments around the world. In the Navy’s prestigious national security law practice, we have opportunities to serve at the National Security Council, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, geographic and functional combatant commands and the Office of Legal Counsel to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Lynmarie Rivera Martinez
Position: Upon completing my degree, I will be an associate professor in the criminal law department at the Judge Advocate General Corps Legal Center and School.
Area of expertise: Criminal law and litigation
Law school (J.D.): University of Puerto Rico School of Law
What’s the most rewarding part of your service as a JAG officer? The most rewarding part of my service is the unique opportunity to serve my nation while helping soldiers navigate complex legal issues. Whether serving as a prosecutor, defense counsel or legal adviser, I have been able to use my legal skills to help soldiers going through challenging times. I enjoy helping and mentoring the next generation of judge advocates. I am an active participant in our affinity groups. These groups foster camaraderie, learning and discussing issues in a safe space. I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve as a mentor and help others avoid all the mistakes I made as a young attorney.
What do you hope to learn earning your degree? My current focus is to acquire additional tools to use in my next job as an associate professor and reinforce my litigation skills. I am here to rethink how I have practiced criminal law in the past 10 years and deepen my knowledge of the criminal law system by studying the interplay of race and justice. Moreover, I want to learn how different leadership and teaching styles can influence the education process of students. I am confident this year at UVA will provide me with the skills necessary to teach the next generation of judge advocates and further my career.
Position: I most recently served as an associate professor at the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School next door. At the school, I instructed on military investigations, equal opportunity and sexual harassment law to brand new judge advocates; civilian and military attorneys and paralegals throughout the Corps; our resident LL.M. candidates; and senior military commanders stationed across the world.
Area of Expertise: During my time in the Army, I have developed expertise in criminal litigation as well as the areas on which I instructed at the Judge Advocate General’s School. I am hoping to expand to civil litigation and procedure while I am here at UVA Law.
Law school (J.D.): Florida Coastal School of Law
What’s the most rewarding part of your service as a JAG officer? The opportunities the Army has given me to practice law are extraordinary. I spent my first years of practice in the Army JAG Corps as a prosecutor in the Hawaiian Islands. My very first contested jury trial took place on Oahu and involved allegations of rape spanning a decade. In my next assignment, I managed a criminal defense office where I supervised four attorneys and personally represented clients accused of crimes ranging from homicide to premeditated attempted murder. I next practiced in Germany where, in April of 2020, I served as the primary legal adviser to the installation commander of the largest enclave of Americans outside the U.S., just as the COVID-19 outbreak commenced. Most recently, I was able to return to Charlottesville and teach at an ABA-accredited law school. There, the Army JAG Corps chose me to receive a funded LL.M. from one of the best law schools in the country. These unique professional opportunities have been eclipsed only by the amazing people I have had the privilege of working with and for over the past 10 years — those people are who make the job truly rewarding.
What do you hope to learn earning your degree? Upon earning my degree, I will report to the military personnel litigation branch of the U.S. Army’s Civil Litigation Division in Washington, D.C. In that position, I will serve as agency counsel representing the Army, its agencies and officials on matters related to Army personnel policies. While here at UVA Law, I hope to gain expertise in the fields of civil litigation and procedure, administrative law and advanced constitutional law.