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Military Residency Rules Receive Overdue Overhaul

November 5, 2009
Military Spouses Residency Relief ActWhen I first joined the Air Force and moved far, far away from home, it came as a total shock when I found out that federal law allowed me to continue to claim my home state residency, but my wife couldn’t.   I had no idea.  Apparently the section governing military spouses’ residency hasn’t been updated since 1940 when the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act was first enacted.

Though most people in the Air Force do everything but sell their firstborn child to become Florida residents for tax purposes, I wasn’t ready to let go of my Idaho residency, even though the tax benefits aren’t quite as good.  Since my wife wasn’t planning on working (other than being a full-time mom), she really didn’t have any desire to switch residency either, but she didn’t have a choice.  She had to pay for a Florida driver’s license and register to vote in Florida, while I didn’t have to do a single thing.

The fact of the matter is, though my wife would be more than happy to spend the rest of her life playing on the sandy beaches of Florida, this quirk in federal law created a lot of unnecessary hassle and expense for military families.  Fortunately, this week Congress finally made some real progress to correct this deficiency by passing the Military Spouse Residency Relief Act.  Click through to read a press release with more details about the current status of the bill.   Read more…

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New Air Force PT Uniform Standards

October 31, 2009

Just in case you were wondering, all you non-tuckers out there (myself included) will have to change your bad habits now that the Air Force has released new PT uniform wear standards [ AFI (Air Force Instruction) 36-2903 governs uniform wear, including PT gear/uniforms].   Read this quick synopsis at Air Force Times, or click through the break to read the entire message.

The good ole' days...

Read more…

2010 Military Pay Raise Locked and Loaded

October 31, 2009

2010 Military Basic Pay for Officers

On Wednesday, President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization
Act for Fiscal Year 2010
.  It includes, among other things,  a 3.4% pay raise for active duty personnel, which is half a percentage point less than the increase troops received in 2009.  Certainly not enough money to make you rich, but it’s always nice to get a little bump in basic pay at the beginning of each year.

Here’s a little background info about military pay raises written back in April 2009:

The Obama administration has called for a 2.9 percent increase in basic pay (over 2009 basic pay rates) for military members, effective January 1, 2010.

2.9 percent is the minimum President Obama could have requested under current law, as this percentage would match, but not exceed, average private-sector wage growth.

Under law, each year ’s increase must at least match the private-sector wage growth as measured by the Labor Department’s Employment Cost Index. However, every year for the past several years, Congress has approved a military pay raise slightly larger than that requested by the President, and 2010 is no exception.

Both the House and the Senate has agreed to include a 3.4 percent across-the-board military base pay raise in the 2010 Defense Authorization Act. This makes a 3.4 percent raise (1/2 a percent above President Obama’s request) pretty much a sure thing.

[Source:  About.com:  U.S. Military]

 

Droid Does ~ The New and Improved “On-Call JAG Phone”

October 30, 2009

As a new JAG, I quickly learned that in the military, legal questions pop up at all hours of the day.  Of course, the typical legal office maintains regular working hours (usually 0730 to 1630) that commanders can make a quick phone call to the JAG or pop in for a question, but it’s the lovely hours after 1630 that tend to create lots of excitement.  Hence, the ever popular “on-call” JAG phone.

RADIO TELEPHONE OPERATOR

Trust  me, there’s nothing more exciting than getting notified at 2 o’clock in the morning about a domestic dispute (that happened six hours earlier) or receiving word that a brainless airman got arrested at the gate for driving under the influence.  Those phone calls are mostly aggravating, but then there are other times when the calls are more serious.  An airman got killed.  A military aircraft crashed.  It could be any number of things, and they all involve legal issues that require JAG involvement 24 hours a day. Read more…

The Deployed AF JAG Experience

October 28, 2009

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Whether they ask it up front or wait for a strategic moment to drop the burning question, all JAG candidates want to know how soon they might expect to deploy and what deployment is like.  As far as how soon, the easy answer:  It depends.  Your mom won’t like that answer, but a lot depends on what service you’re looking at as well as where you end up stationed.  As for the Air Force, I heard I would have at least a couple years before I got my boots dirty.  I ended up at a base that fills a number of deployment slots, so I beat that estimate by a few months.   No big deal.  It’s different for everyone.

As far as what it’s like to spend a summer in the scorching-hot Middle East, here’s an inside look from a friend of mine in the Air Force who wrote about his recent experience as a deployed JAG in Iraq.  And yes,  riding in MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles is lots of fun.

Knockout Trial Lawyer Tips

October 27, 2009

Tbj_jury1This month’s edition of ABA e-News had an interesting interview with seasoned trial strategist, G. Christopher Ritter.  He provided some keys for successful navigation of the world of jury trials (“members” in the military), something that JAGs usually get to experience early on in their careers.  Here are the main points:

  • The trial lawyer’s main job is to EDUCATE the jury.  The jury needs to understand what’s going on in the courtroom and with the case.

This understanding not only helps them decide, but it also keeps them interested, and someone who is interested is much more likely to listen to what it is that you are trying to sell.

[E]ducating the jury entails giving them the material that they need to agree with your position and then advocate on your behalf in the deliberation room.

  • Persuade jurors by appealing to “core values” and “core details.”
    Core Values:  Appeal to a sense of compassion, dispassionate order, fairness, objective observation or science, and common sense.  Appealing to core values allows jurors to “reach a verdict in a way that is wholly consistent with their personal beliefs.”Core Details:  The “objective facts that are necessary for the jury to understand your case. Tools that address the core details persuade jurors on an intellectual level.”
  • Use simple, everyday concepts to persuade. Teach the jury through simple, familiar, memorable examples and arguments.

No single persuasion tool will satisfy all of your jurors. You need to offer your jury an array of tools. By doing so, you allow different people to come to the same conclusion as to whom should prevail, but you allow them to do so from a variety of different directions.

Final advice for young trial lawyers:

One of the best bits of advice I got was from an older lawyer, who said, “Great lawyers are not afraid to make fools of themselves.” I think what that means is that great lawyers are not afraid of thinking outside the box and doing something different.

Oftentimes, lawyers, particularly young lawyers, do something just because they have observed other lawyers doing it. And it’s not usually the most creative way to do things. Thinking outside the box doesn’t make you look like a fool per se, but it gives you an opportunity to explore options that most lawyers don’t typically consider. The ones who are willing to take a risk are the really good lawyers.

There you have it:  Win your next member trial by doing something bold and different, but also focusing on the core concepts of educating members and using simple, everyday concepts to make persuasive, logical arguments.

Welcome to JAG Lawyer Daily

October 25, 2009

TJAG Corps Logo

Not long ago I received a message from a random person on facebook, not even a friend in fact or person I know, asking a list of questions about my experience in the Air Force JAG Corp.  He must have tracked me down because we went to the same alma mater, but regardless I answered his query in great detail and enjoyed every minute of it.  That was not the first time I answered questions from curious law students or undergrads about my (relatively brief) experience as a JAG, and I suspect it won’t be the last. I love answering these kinds of questions because I love being a military attorney and I love serving in the Air Force.  Now don’t get me wrong, it ain’t all rosy-colored glasses and kool-aid all the time, but for the most part being a JAG provides an enjoyable and unique legal experience that you won’t find anywhere else.

Having joined the JAG Corp without any military background at all, I understand what it’s like to start out from scratch, not knowing a thing about the JAG Corp, not having any military contacts, and not always knowing where to turn for answers. Hence, the creation of this website.   If you stumble upon JAG Lawyer Daily and are curious about what life as a JAG is like, perhaps in some small way this website can help answer your questions.  And if you can’t find the answers, just leave a comment and I’ll do what I can to hook you up with the information or contacts you need.

I’ve been in long enough to know what it’s like to work in a military legal office on a day-to-day basis, talking with commanders and first sergeants, meeting with legal assistance clients, managing a heavy court-martial load, and being an officer all at the same time.  I’m convinced that there are few legal careers out there that expose a new attorney to so many difference experiences and responsibilities.  And if you’re wondering about deployments and stuff like that, been there, done that, I’ll tell you what you need to know.

Beyond providing a forum on the Internet for learning more about JAG as a career-field, JAG Lawyer Daily also provides news, analysis, discussion, tools, and resources for practicing military attorneys.  Though still in its infant stages, I hope you enjoy the website and find the information useful.  Don’t forget, if you have any questions, drop a comment.  You won’t get a better answer anywhere else on the web.