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March 29, 2013

Legal helps Airmen, brings justice

Staff Judge Advocate members assist military personnel with legal issues and handle multiple cases that could result in adverse consequences.

The Airmen who work in the staff judge advocate office do more than handle powers of attorneys and wills; they are involved in assisting commanders with disciplinary actions and help prosecute those who break the law to bring justice to the victims.

There are essentially two central aspects to the legal office — military justice and civil law.

Military justice involves any Airman who may violate military laws.

“When an Airman commits misconduct, supervisors and commanders must decide whether corrective or disciplinary action is appropriate,” said Capt. Bradley Sauer, 56th Fighter Wing assistant staff judge advocate. “Our office advises commanders on the suitable level of adverse consequences for an individual who commits misconduct, which could include anything from a letter of counseling to a general court-martial.”

Military justice also takes more time to prepare for depending on the level of misconduct.

“Military justice can often be complicated, especially if we are preparing for multiple courts at once,” said Tech. Sgt. Tiffany Ebueng, 56th FW military justice NCO-in-charge. This court process includes witness interviews, collection of evidence, arranging travel for those involved in the case and getting experts acclimated with the evidence.”

Those working in the civil law section provide legal assistance to all active-duty personnel, retirees and their dependents or any individual under Title 10 orders, Ebueng said. This includes powers-of-attorney, wills and general legal advice for issues such as divorce.

Other areas of civil law include claims, legal reviews and ethics.

A jet damaging a home’s foundation because of a sonic boom is an example of a claim, Sauer said. The owner can file a claim against the Air Force to pay to fix it. Legal then investigates the claim and if the Air Force is found liable for the damage, makes sure the owner is paid for repairs

A legal review, which falls under civil law, is anything that is reviewed for legality. It also makes sure things are done correctly under the Air Force Instruction, such as if accepting a gift or sponsorship is allowed, Ebueng said.

In all areas of law, ethical rules must apply.

“The military has what some might consider rather strict ethical rules,” Sauer said. “We help advise personnel whether conduct is perceived as right or wrong. For instance, in general, nobody can accept a gift based on their rank or position, but there are a number of exceptions to that rule. We help personnel determine whether an exception applies in their case.”

Although the staff judge advocate office is kept busy with the base’s legal matters, they are here to help.

“Though our attorneys cannot represent personnel in court, we can certainly help point people in the right direction,” Ebueng said. “Most importantly, we are here to make Airmen feel confident when they deploy or while tackling daily operations here at Luke Air Force Base knowing that all their legal matters are handled.”




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