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What is an Air Force Judge Advocate?

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  • Written By: Paul Woods
  • Edited By: Jacob Harkins
  • Last Modified Date: 28 October 2016
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The Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG) is a unit of the U.S. Air Force responsible for providing a wide variety of legal services to that branch of the US military. Attorneys working for the Air Force Judge Advocate prosecute and defend active-duty Air Force members who have been charged with criminal conduct or other less-severe infractions of military law. Air Force Judge Advocate staff members also provide civil law services both in the United States and internationally at bases outside of the country.

In 1947, the Air Force was created as a separate branch of the U.S. military. Prior to that time it had been a unit of the Army. In 1948, shortly after the creation of the Air Force, Congress also created the The Office of the Judge Advocate General. The JAG initially was considered a department of the Air Force reporting to the military branch's chief of staff. In 2003, the JAG became a separate unit known as a corps and was renamed the Judge Advocate General Corps.

Dealing with criminal matters, Air Force JAG attorneys prosecute and defend cases under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The code of justice governs all legal matters for military members. Military members prosecuted under the this code have cases heard in a special military court called a court-martial.

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Typically, criminal prosecuting and defense attorneys working with the Air Force Judge Advocate are themselves active-duty Air Force members. JAG attorneys often attend law school at the expense of the Air Force in exchange for which they serve a predetermined number of yeas on active duty. There also are civilian attorneys working for the Air Force Judge Advocate. The JAG corps also employs numerous paralegal and administrative support personnel, including both civilians and active-duty Air Force members.

Two years after the JAG was established, the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s School was created. It is located at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. The school is responsible for training new JAG attorneys, paralegals and support personnel.

The Air Force Judge Advocate also staffs an appellate court level to hear cases on appeal from the courts-martial level. Civil matters regarding the Air Force and Air Force personnel are heard in civilian courts. The Air Force JAG also conducts hearings on non-criminal infractions, which are called Article 15 or Non-Judicial Punishment hearings.

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