Wednesday, July 2, 2008

JAG Access to State Court Update: ELAP Rule Advocated

ABA's Standing Committee on Legal Assistance to Military Personnel (LAMP) is pressing an effort to open state courts to JAGs in support of military personnel who otherwise have no representation:
"... We are writing on an issue vital to assuring adequate legal representation of our American military members in the courts of your state.

We request your support for an effective state Expanded Legal Assistance Program (ELAP) rule enabling military lawyers to appear in state courts to represent their servicemember clients in civil-law matters.

The availability of Judge Advocate representation in state courts is important because servicemembers too often cannot afford civilian lawyers, and the legal matters at issue are often too small to interest members of the civilian bar. For American servicemembers, even relatively small legal burdens can create enormous distractions when add to the special burdens faced by military families. That is particularly true in these times of international conflict and great servicemember sacrifice.

ELAP rules support military legal assistance in two ways: (i) by allowing Judge Advocates into state courts; and (ii) by enabling locally-based Judge Advocates to creibly inform businesses that engage in abusive practices targeting servicemembers that they will be taken to court if such practices persist.

Military legal assistance offices report that when servicemembers are targets of unfair practices, the mere availability of in-court representation by military lawyers can lead to a negotiate resolution of controversies.

...Despite that need and ready tools to address it, too few states have stepped forward to adopt effective ELAP rules ... some states with large military presences lack any rule that would open the doors of their state courts to military lawyerswho are not licensed in the state. Others have adopted regulations that nominally admit JAG lawyers to state courts, but impose training and dues requirements that stand as practical barriers to admission to the courts. Military attorneys generally are not stations in a state long enough to make satisfaction of such requirements practical or affordable..."



  • Contact the head of your state bar association and request an update of your state's rules in this regard.
  • Check periodicall for signs of progress and to remain informed.

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