So What Does A Lawyer Do In The Military?

Justice of the Peace Gerald WilliamsBy: Judge Gerald A. Williams

North Valley Justice of the Peace

Many people know that I am also in the United States Air Force Reserve and that I perform my Reserve duty at Luke Air Force Base. Some people view military duty as some type of paid vacation because I’m temporarily away from my regular civilian job. Others confuse it with the National Guard. However, few people outside of the military understand what military lawyers do.

The short answer is that military attorneys, called judge advocates or JAGs, do more than wills and courts-martial. Although there are attorney client and privacy issues, I can tell you generally some of the projects I recently had something to do with.

While there was recently a tragic incident involving a stolen vehicle, a security incident and a law enforcement officer involved shooting at Luke AFB, most of the day-to-day operations of lawyers do not involve things that necessarily make the evening news. For example, I recently authored a labor law brief concerning actions taken against civilian employees. The Air Force had won the arbitration; but the union was essentially appealing the decision.

People with a military ID card are also entitled to free legal advice on personal civil legal matters. I was able to help a dependent wife, whose husband is deployed to Afghanistan, file a lawsuit. She had purchased a significant consumer product from a California company and had received neither the product nor a requested refund.

If I say something about Luke AFB, it almost always triggers a question about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The Air Force recently held a series of public scoping meetings in Maricopa County because Luke AFB is one of the locations being considered for F-35A training aircraft. Those meetings are required under federal environmental laws. Next, a draft environmental impact statement will be prepared and that will be followed by public hearings.

I genuinely enjoy my military service and have done things as varied as serving as a medical law consultant to a regional medical center to defending an officer accused of a friendly fire event over Northern Iraq. As long as I can be useful, I will continue to serve.

Judge Gerald Williams is the presiding justice of the peace for the Northwest Regional Court Center. His column appears monthly in The Foothills Focus.


  1. Jon Altmann, ISCS, USN (Ret.) says

    Gerald thank you for your service to our country. Few folks realize that the life of a Reservist has not been just “one weekend a month” since the Gulf War. It is demanding, often requiring many hours of unpaid time, especially for senior officers and senior enlisted or those in even in lesser command leadership assignments – and all of that “off-duty” time is not paid for or otherwise compensated.
    Then there are the many ways DoD has used Reservists on ADT, ADSW and other pay vehicles to keep it cheap for DoD but also to the deteriment of the Reservist when it comes to retirement and VA benefits.
    As the saying goes, a Resevists is twice a citizen, and if we add your time in elected office, it is only more dedication to helping others. Thank you!

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