Stung by string of scandals, the sea service urges legal reforms

| January 13, 2020

Special Warfare Operator Chief Edward “Eddie” Gallagher, left, and his wife Andrea hug after leaving the Naval Base San Diego courthouse after a July court-martial plagued by allegations of police and prosecutorial misconduct. In the wake of the Gallagher case, senior Navy leaders sparked a probe into the Navy’s legal community. (Gregory Bull/AP)

After a string of botched Navy legal incidents including illegal wiretapping, poor legal advice provided to Commanders and unlawful command influence has shaken confidence in the Navy’s legal system, an investigation was ordered by Ex-Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer.

The Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Robert P. Burke, praised the first major review of the sea service’s legal community in nearly a decade as “thorough.”

“It’s comprehensive,” he said. “It’s very transparent and it speaks for itself” which of course means nothing.

The report falls back on obvious findings that the JAG Corps lacks a culture of grading its own performance and needs better training and professional development.

By Courtney Mabeus

The blue ribbon panel drafting the review recommended that the Navy’s lawyer leadership issue governing principals to buttress JAG officers’ roles as naval officers and attorneys, as well as fostering a climate of “continuous improvement.”

The JAG Corps “needs to embrace a learning culture,” according to the report.

“Navy judge advocates are members of two honorable professions: the profession of arms and the profession of law. As uniformed attorneys, judge advocates support the profession of arms by enhancing personnel and unit readiness, ensuring good order and discipline, and providing sound legal advice in support of the commanders and the units they serve. A clearer understanding of Navy culture and values, and a judge advocate’s role as both a Naval officer and attorney, is required and must be continually reinforced throughout the community,” the panel wrote.


Washington, D.C.-based attorney David P. Sheldon read the report Friday. He had a unique perch on two of the examples of unlawful command influence it highlighted.

He was the winning attorney in the appeal of Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Keith E. Barry, who saw his sexual assault conviction overturned as a result of unlawful command influence partly blamed on ex-Navy JAG Vice Adm. Crawford.

Cmdr. Matt Szoka, left, greets Judge Advocate General, Vice Admiral James W. Crawford III, during a tour of Naval Air Facility Atsugi on June 21, 2017. (Navy)

And he represented Lt. Natalie Combs, a junior officer who was sent to court-martial along with Benson in the Fitz case.

Nine months ago, Sheldon was awaiting a ruling on his motion to dismiss her case for UCI when the Navy announced military prosecutors were abandoning their efforts against both Combs and Benson.

On Thursday, a Navy board of inquiry also ruled unanimously to retain Combs in the sea service.

Sheldon told the Navy Times the panel’s report “will be entirely meaningless if the Navy (Judge Advocate General’s Corps) does not provide the resources to implement the recommended changes.”

Read the rest here: Navy Times

Category: Legal, Navy

Comments (20)

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  1. Ret_25X says:

    WHat a bunch of hypocritical platitudes.

    “learning culture”…”continuous education”…blah blah blah.

    No, no, and nope.

    They need to be held ACCOUNTABLE!


    No amount of “training and education” can fix a culture infected with “Because they can” disease. Only the disinfectant of accountability as demonstrated in some public firings and perhaps even legal actions against some of these lawyers and the Commanders involved.

    But alas, meaningless crap like “learning culture” always comes before “You’re fired”.

    • Mason says:

      And where is the good admiral now? Riding out a nice retirement. Near as I can tell, still at his three star rank. He should be recalled to AD and stand to atone.

  2. Sparks says:

    As I wrote about achieving the rank of CPO, on the thread about the “Chiefs Gone Wild”, it obviously applies to Vice Admirals as well. The requirements for rising to that rank, in many cases, are more about quotas than merit. Example Vice Adm. James W. Crawford…the Third. If you graduate last in your law class you’re still an attorney and the military will take all comers if they fit the quota.

    • A Proud Infidel®™ says:

      IMHO Vice Admiral James W. Crawford III looks about as personable and friendly as week old road kill!

  3. USMC Steve says:

    Crawford was nothing more than a marvelous case of affirmative action with an undesirable outcome. A piece of shit with an agenda. Big Navy is out of their freaking minds.

  4. OWB says:

    How much does it cost to tell the JAG folks that they are expected to follow the law? Seriously, does it take anything more than that??

  5. 5th/77th FA says:

    You mean to tell me that JAG is not all about former Navy Seal Admirals, former Top Gun (HT to Mick) Fighter Pilot Lawers, and very well constructed Female Marine MAJ/LTC Lawers? My Wednesdays of bingeing on the H&I Channel are strictly a fantasy Hollywierd production? Shocked am I, shocked I tell you.

    Burn these mofos! See how well they can do making gravel out of boulders.

    • NHSparky says:

      Any more than NCIS is about coffee-sipping former Marine snipers wrapping up major terrorist rings and/or murderers in 48 minutes or less.

    • The Other Whitey says:

      Back in the late 90s, Catherine Bell featured very prominently in my teenage imagination…

      • Jay says:

        Ditto. I was a young teenager and then a young Marine in the late 90s…..CBS on Fridays was very….accommodating.

  6. Graybeard says:

    Buzzwords, without meaning or content.

    I’ve seen those types of phrases used way to often in my former life as a petty bureaucrat for the Great State of Texas – and the only result is to make some suits feel good about themselves and look good to the State Legislature in the next biennium.

    That and forestall any real progress.

  7. My comment isn’t about the above but I just wanted to mention that the DOJ originally gave Gen Flynn no jail time and I read that they reneged on that and just decided to give him 6 months in jail. To me it sounds like they are trying to get back at the Pres. by jailing the man that for a short time worked for him.

  8. JustALurkinAround says:

    As mentioned above, what this report lacks are details. For instance, how will the TOUCH POINTS be ENGAGED? What will the senior leaders and field-grade officers do to ensure the necessary SYNERGY between different STAKE HOLDERS is enacted to see through this BOLD CAMPAIGN PLAN put forth by this esteemed BLUE RIBBON PANEL? Who will ACTION these various INITIATIVES to ensure the CUSTOMER is treated properly in the future? Finally, how on earth to they plan to LEVERAGE the ENTERPRISE to assimilate these EFFORTS FULL-SPECTRUM.

    Sorry, sat through an O&I brief this morning and wanted to stick my head in the secret shredder after hearing all of those stupid fucking buzzwords.

  9. Slow Joe says:

    That Crawford admiral dude looks shady as fukc.

    I wouldn’t like to work for him.

  10. ChipNASA says:

    Ahem, ….

    Fucking dick biscuits.