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NEWS | Aug. 4, 2009

The Area Defense Counsel – Advocate in times of need

By Capt. Zaven Saroyan and Staff Sgt. Robert Shearer Air Force Legal Operations Agency

You've seen our photos. You've read the posters, "the Area Defense Counsel's office works for you, not the command." But who are we and what do we do?

As you might have guessed, we are active duty attorneys and paralegals. Unlike the legal professionals at the legal office, we don't work for the base commander. The Area Defense Counsel was established in 1976 to provide defense services independent from the base legal office and commander. That means that we represent our clients, not the Air Force.

In 1983, Maj. General Thomas Bruton, then the Judge Advocate General of the Air Force said, "It is not the job of the defense counsel to assist or make it easy for the government to establish or present its case. To the contrary, the independent defense structure pioneered by the Air Force was in part established to enable defense counsel to freely make those many difficult and sometimes challenging decisions without fear of command interference or reprisal."

But what does the Area Defense Counsel do?

We represent active-duty members in actions under the Uniform Code of Military Justice at courts-martial and nonjudicial punishment actions. We also represent clients in a variety of other actions, including administrative discharges, referral performance reports and letters of reprimand. Keep in mind, we can assist while the command is still investigating, before any action is taken against you.

Remember, under military law, an Air Force member suspected of committing a criminal offense has the right to remain silent and the right to consult with a military lawyer free of charge prior to making any statement. Additionally, any statement that is made, whether oral or written, may be used against the member in a court-martial, Article 15, nonjudicial punishment action, or administrative action. The fact a member exercises either the right to remain silent or the right to consult with an attorney cannot be held against the member by Air Force authorities.

If you find yourself in need of our services or have any questions at all, do not hesitate to drop by our office or give us a call. Our office is located at 101 East Hill Blvd, Building 503, Room 119. We can be reached by phone at 963-4417.