My son’s military lawyer says my son doesn’t need a civilian lawyer. Why?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Military defense counsel often don’t like a client hiring civilian counsel, so it may be an automatic reaction. Part of this is pure ego – civilian attorneys are by definition the lead counsel and get to call the shots. The other part is based on prior bad experiences with some civilian counsel who were not familiar with court-martial, would not listen, expected the military attorney to do all the scut work, missed deadlines, lost the case, and blamed the military attorney.

A regular civilian attorney who has not handled court martial proceedings may be clueless as to the military. On the other hand, an experienced civilian lawyer could have had extensive experience in court-martial and even may be a retired military lawyer.

The bottom line is if you feel better hiring an experienced civilian criminal defense lawyer – you should do it. But make sure you hire a defense lawyer who knows military law. But don’t just hire your cousin Vinny – he likely will do more harm than good.

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