ADC ensures due process

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Shane M. Phipps
  • 30th Space Wing Public Affairs
With military members being held to high standards of conduct under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the availability of fair legal representation is an Air Force priority.

This representation is offered by a military attorney, known as an Area Defense Counsel, whose sole purpose is to represent Airmen accused of a crime or facing adverse action under the UCMJ.

"The ADC is a defense attorney who represents an accused Airman in criminal charges that result in courts-martial proceedings, non-judicial punishment, (like an Article 15), administrative discharge or other adverse actions," said Master Sgt. Beverly James, 30th Space Wing paralegal.

Counterparts to their fellow Air Force attorneys and paralegals who work in the base legal office, the ADC and defense paralegal follow a different chain of command.

"Our hope is to give our clients some reassurance that their attorney and paralegal, who are helping them, are independent and not tainted by the command climate," said Capt. Sarah Kress, VAFB ADC. Also, as legal professionals, it's important we have a clear channel so there is no apparent, or actual, conflict of interest."

James agrees this separation from the wing's command structure is an essential part of providing fair and impartial legal defense.

"The ADC's chain of command is completely separate from the base legal office to avoid any command influence or pressure by any commander to do anything against the best interest of the accused," said James. "They are assigned to the Air Force Legal Operations Agency and they do not report to any individual on the base, which eliminates the appearance that the defense counsel works in some way for the commander."

The ADC encourages anyone seeking counsel to feel comfortable doing so sooner rather than later.

"I want people to know they shouldn't be discouraged to come into my office," said Kress. "They shouldn't see it as a negative mark on their record. Technically, my door is usually closed for privacy reasons but I'm always available to help those in need."

Despite being held to firm standards under the UCMJ, all Airmen are still afforded the right to competent and just legal representation.

"Any accused Airman has a right to due process of law to receive fair representation in all legal matters," said James. "The ADC protects Airmen's rights by ensuring independent and confidential representation to provide the best and unbiased defense possible."

Although stressful at times, Kress finds immense pride in her line of work and constantly stays focused on why it's all worth it.

"You definitely take this job home with you," said Kress. "Some people come in here dealing with very serious issues, and it sticks with you, but it also makes the reward that much more satisfying. The men and women who we're representing serve our country and if anyone deserves to have their constitutional rights protected, it's those same men and women."

For more information, contact the ADC at 805-606-3627.