Picture this: An honorable Sailor, ready to make Chief (E7), who has not even a single blemish on his record in over a decade of service. He and his young family have dedicated years to PCS moves, relocations, deployments, and family separations. Then, in the midst of the COVID craze, he’s blindsided when he finds himself accused of crimes that he did not commit. He tries to do the right thing, trusts in his command to do the right thing, and answers every question asked of him. Unfortunately, his efforts and trust are rewarded with an announcement that he will be going to non-judicial punishment (NJP), charged with crimes that he knows he’s not guilty of. At NJP, he trusts the CO to be fair and consider his flawless service to the Navy. But he’s disappointed, as the CO finds him guilty of all offenses, seemingly without even considering his record, the facts, or the law.
Incredibly, the CO then imposes a reduction in rate. Now, instead of making Chief, this Sailor and his family are now to be separated from the service in the coming years for High Year Tenure. Separation will result in a loss of retirement and the benefits that come with a military retirement and the family is decimated. But the Sailor trusts in the NJP appeal system and pleads for the Admiral to make things right. The NJP appeal is reviewed by the Admiral’s lawyer and, inexplicably, the Admiral upholds the CO and the reduction. Everything this family has worked for, including their retirement and reputation, is seemingly lost.
Not knowing where to turn, the Sailor reaches out to us at King Military Law (KML). We evaluate the case, recognize the injustice, and get to work.
For the most part, Navy leaders are dedicated professionals who fight hard for the success of their Sailors. They try hard to be fair when exercising their near absolute authority over a Sailor’s life. Similarly, the active duty lawyers who advise them are bright attorneys who work hard to give them correct advice. But, too often—as it did here—this system fails. Instead of protecting the Sailor, the CO prioritizes discipline and “sending a message” to the rest of the crew that he won’t tolerate conduct that paints a poor picture of his command. And instead of providing good legal advice, the bright lawyer—young and inexperienced—is instead “instructed” by the Admiral on the importance of “good order and discipline” and “backing up” the CO. When the system fails in this way, the Sailor suffers and the efforts to impose “good order and discipline” instead result in a crew doubting the fairness and justice of the CO’s decisions.
Most servicemembers who experience this type of injustice suffer in silence. The power the military has over their professional lives seems unlimited and their efforts to fight back seem futile. But It’s not. Attorneys experienced in military law can offer servicemembers (Sailors, Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Space Force personnel) avenues to fight unfair actions.
In the Navy and Marine Corps, one of those avenues is the Board of Corrections of Naval Records. The BCNR is a “last-ditch” opportunity to right the wrongs done by Navy leaders. KML routinely takes cases to the BCNR, seeking justice where the Navy or Marine Corps denied it. We took this Sailor’s case to the BCNR, pointing out the legal error, the injustice, and the command’s mistakes. Afterward, the BCNR recognized the validity of the Sailor’s claim, removed the guilty finding, and restored the Sailor’s rank. This victory not only saved the Sailor’s retirement but also solidified his belief that, if you fight hard enough, justice can be restored. Here’s the relevant portion of the BCNR decision:
Petitioner presents a valid ground for removing his guilty finding . . . of his NJP[.] Therefore . . . BCNR [will] restore Petitioner to the rank of Petty Officer First Class.
The military justice system can be daunting. The power of military commanders to impact careers with the stroke of a pen creates the perception that there is little that can be done to challenge them. That is not so. It’s important to remember that you can fight back. You can get justice. You CAN win. And you don’t have to do it alone. When the chips are down, working with a law firm that knows how to fight and win can make all the difference.
At King Military Law, we are retired JAGs, retired Legalmen, and even retired law enforcement. And there is never a doubt where our loyalties lie. Collectively, we have over a CENTURY of military justice experience, all with one goal: to bring that experience to help FIGHT the system on behalf of our clients. We know the problems our clients face. We know how to fight back. And we know how to win. To read the experiences of real clients who have trusted KML with their legal issues, click here.
If you or a loved one find yourselves wronged by the military justice system, don’t be intimidated. Don’t lose hope. Reach out to KingMilitaryLaw.com and let us fight for you. We’ll help give you every chance to stand up, fight back, and reclaim what is rightfully yours.
King Military Law