Zengerle in National Law Journal: Separating the War From the Warrior

A generation ago Americans had trouble supporting the troops fighting in Viet Nam, says Professor Joe Zengerle, but today support for men and women in uniform is nearly universal.

Zengerle makes this point in his National Law Journal article about Mason Law's Clinic for Legal Assistance to Servicemembers, which Zengerle founded at the law school three years ago. Currently serving as the clinic's Executive Director, Zengerle makes a case in his article for the "unique potential" law schools have for offering assistance to service members in ways that surpass merely the obvious service and educational benefits.

Among the benefits derived from interaction between students and service members, says Zengerle, is closure of the civilian-military gap in higher education and elsewhere, as well as a contribution to the national security health of the nation.

Helping our troops, National Law Journal, July 28, 2008. By Joseph Zengerle. 

"The point of the spear in the effort to help service members with civil legal problems is the lawyers in the Judge Advocate General's  (JAG) Corps of the military services. Title 10 of the U.S. Code authorizes the services to provide such assistance.

"But this can be a heavy burden on the JAG Corps, especially when staff legal resources face the same pressures as other service members to respond to present-day deployment demands. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said just this month that he doesn't have enough personnel to respond to the growing threat in Afghanistan until the demand for troops in Iraq is reduced.

"In addition, even when JAG lawyers are available, their time is limited. JAG lawyers in legal assistance offices often see upwards of a half-dozen or more people a day; when a single legal problem can require days rather than hours of work, it's difficult to choose whether to deal with one complicated legal issue or many more manageable ones.

"Moreover, JAG lawyers are not assigned according to where they are admitted to the bar, so they normally can't appear before local courts. And even if they are allowed to do so by state law and millitary policy, their lack of familiarity with state procedures, as well as local substantive law, might present headwinds in cases outside their practice expertise."

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