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87th Air Base Wing (87 ABW/JA), Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, NJ87th Air Base Wing (87 ABW/JA), Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, provides all of the legal assistance support to the only tri-service Joint Base in the Department of Defense (DoD). The Legal Office provides legal assistance services to not only the 87 ABW and its Joint Base partners (the former Fort Dix and Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station), but also to the 305th Air Mobility Wing (AMW), the 621st Contingency Response Wing, United States Air Force Expeditionary Center, 514 AMW, 108th Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, and a retiree population estimated at over 60,000. In 2014, the legal office served a total of 3,315 legal assistance clients, produced 4,745 legal documents and notarized 6,713 documents, saving these clients an estimated $877,915 in legal fees. The legal office tax program served another 464 clients and prepared 800 federal and state tax returns, which refunded to clients over $800,000 in returns. It also saved these clients $91,370 in tax preparation fees. The legal office successfully petitioned and changed the New Jersey attorney licensing requirements for military spouses, allowing spouses of active duty military members stationed in the state to practice law in the State of New Jersey without having to sit for a bar examination. The legal office successfully partnered with the local community by working with the Burlington County Judges Association to improve the quality of the free legal information handouts offered by the Judiciary's Ombudsmen Office. The legal office also partnered with the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Tax Section Council to have tax attorneys volunteer through the “Adopt a Base” program to teach the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance training in conjunction with the Internal Revenue Service trainers for the upcoming 2015 tax center. Finally, the Legal Office is providing razor sharp advice to legal assistance clients about the recent changes to the eligibility requirements for DoD benefits to same-sex partners.
Captain Morgan Christie, Chief of Legal Assistance & Civil Law, 97th Air Mobility Wing (97 AMW/JA), Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, Altus Air Force Base, OKGoing far above that which is required, Captain Morgan Christie has made significant innovations to the Altus Air Force Base legal assistance program while providing exceptional service to individual legal assistance clients. Through her relentless efforts, she successfully negotiated with Legal Aid of Oklahoma to have the Altus Air Force Base Legal Office designated as a “pro-bono agency.” This designation gave Altus judge advocates access to a wide variety of Oklahoma-specific legal resources, including hundreds of interactive forms prepared by licensed Oklahoma attorneys. This unprecedented access helped reduce the number of pro se airmen turned away for defective filings. Additionally, Captain Christie completely revamped the Altus Air Force Base legal assistance training program. She arranged for experts in Oklahoma family law, trusts and estates, the Consumer Protection Bureau, and Legal Aid to provide training at Altus Air Force Base, thereby reducing required travel by Altus judge advocates and saving the Air Force $32,000. This emphasis on better training and increased resources translated into superior service, as the Altus Air Force Base legal assistance program was recognized on The Judge Advocate General's Honor Roll for both feedback and efficiency every month in 2014. Captain Christie organized the first-ever "Altus late night legal assistance" hours to help ensure that Airmen working non-traditional hours could still receive legal assistance services and she did the first-ever legal assistance outreach mission to the local chapters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. Captain Christie met those clients where their legal needs required, even if it meant drafting and executing a bedside will for a dying military retiree at a hospital after duty hours or preparing a client for a custody hearing while Captain Christie was on approved leave. In short, Captain Christie's distinctive accomplishments exemplify her commitment to helping the men and women associated with the United States military and the Altus AFB Legal Office.
Legal Assistance Office, Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC), Presidio of Monterey, Monterey, CAThe Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) Legal Assistance Office provides a quality Legal Assistance program through outstanding effort and by creating and sustaining an organizational culture of competence and service despite limited resources. The office serves a Joint Service population of over 43,500 potential clients with an office of only two attorneys and one paralegal. Across the installation, the Legal Assistance Division is first in terms of professional and customer-oriented service, resulting in a 97% excellent rating over the past year. A key component of the Division’s ongoing success is continual learning, as the attorneys and paralegals are able to master and implement new technical, business, and legal programs and processes because training is deemed of paramount importance. Through creativity and innovation they have excelled at reaching out to clients through an extensive Preventive Law program, combining a very informative website and a community outreach effort through a Facebook page. They are also innovative in taking their services to the clients, establishing mobile Legal Assistance Offices where the clients are: the Post Exchange, student lounges, and dining facilities. The dedication of resources, the focus on training and development, and the culture of excitement in delivering excellent legal services has increased the viability of the Legal Assistance program at the Presidio of Monterey and reflects a quality Legal Assistance program.
Mr. Bradley J. Huestis, Chief of Client Services, 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command (7A JMTC), Grafenwoehr, GermanyMr. Bradley J. Huestis demonstrated a superior effort, exceeding the performance of routine duties, dedicated to providing Legal Assistance throughout 2014, including innovations in how these services were provided. Mr. Huestis combines extensive knowledge and experience, a dedication to providing outstanding client services throughout his command, innovative approaches and exceptional leadership/mentorship capabilities to operate a superb Legal Assistance operation throughout the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command (7A JMTC) in Germany. He leads a team of six U.S. attorneys (a combination of civilian and Judge Advocates), three German attorneys, and eight support personnel providing services to over 45,000 eligible clients in five separate communities. Faced with challenges from the new Special Victim Counsel Program and increased troop strength and pre-deployment processing demands due to the Ukraine crisis, Mr. Huestis responded with innovative approaches to insure that these demands were met with no decrease in the traditional Legal Assistance services provided within 7A JMTC. The office also faces the challenges of providing services in Germany where German Law and International treaties add a layer of complexity not faced by stateside offices. He has molded a team that provides exceptional service and has grown through his knowledge, leadership and guidance. Together, these efforts clearly demonstrate the superior performance by Mr. Huestis as Chief of Client Services for 7A JMTC, and highlight the many ways he exceeded the performance of his routine duties during 2014.
Legal Assistance Twentynine Palms, Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center, Legal Services Support Team-Twentynine Palms, Palms, CAThe Legal Assistance Office at Twentynine Palms performed admirably in 2014, providing 1,051 service members, dependents and other eligible persons with 4,296 legal services and 1,480 documents that dealt with family law matters, military rights and benefits, consumer protection, landlord/tenant issues, and estate planning. This not only enhanced their morale and legal readiness, but also positively contributed to the installation’s mission. Attorneys gave preventive law briefs to 3,838 people, as well as Welcome Aboard briefs to 457 newcomers to the installation. The office helped clients recover more than $20,000 in Small Claims Court judgments and negotiated settlements. To compensate for diminished paralegal support, attorneys in the office trained Marine personnel to perform many paralegal functions. The office extended office hours to accommodate clients’ work schedules, resulting in minimal disruption to commands. The office developed positive relationships with local rental companies, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, and local businesses to foster dialogue, streamline processes, and better protect personnel aboard the installation. Tax Center personnel electronically filed 2,461 Federal and 1,771 State income tax returns, saving members of the military community $409,566 in fees they likely would have paid had they used commercial tax preparation services.
Captain Mika’il Ali, Officer-in-Charge, Legal Assistance Section, Legal Services Support Team-Twentynine Palms, Palms, CACaptain Ali’s exceptional performance as the Officer-in Charge, Legal Assistance Office, Twentynine Palms, deserves special recognition. He not only ensured the success of the office, but also established a solid working relationship with the local community in order to protect service members. During his first year in legal assistance, he was the subject of six positive client comments in the Department of Defense Interactive Customer Evaluation (ICE) system designed to gather customer feedback and improve customer service. He implemented a paperless policy by ensuring all files, sample documents, forms and templates were electronically stored, resulting in more accurate and accessible record-keeping and more efficient workflow. He trained his Marines in essential California paralegal skills, such as filing immigration applications, helping clients file California uncontested divorces, and drafting demand letters for multiple landlord-tenant and preventative law issues. He also trained them in the SCRA, estate planning, and military support issues. Captain Ali was instrumental in clients receiving favorable Small Claims Court judgments and negotiated settlements totaling over $20,000. He reached out to local real estate companies regarding contract termination issues that plagued area service members. He reviewed client landlord/tenant files for the past 2 years, gathered evidence of numerous violations of state and federal law, and brought it to the attention of the installation Inspector General for remedial action. Captain Ali also gave pre-deployment briefs to 2,500 service members and their families, alerting them to legal problems that could arise during deployment. He coordinated with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services regional office to create more expedited processing for Marines pending deployment.
Region Legal Service Office (RLSO) JapanThroughout the year, Region Legal Service Office (RLSO) Japan’s legal assistance (LA) department set and achieved success for clients while advancing important policy initiatives relating to the Hague Convention on Child Abduction and the visa process for dependent spouses. The LA department also fully organized and hosted four naturalization ceremonies with distinguished visitors at each ceremony. Working seamlessly with the Professional Development Officer, the LA department instituted a comprehensive training program that leveraged reserve support from subject matter experts at the RLSO Japan reserve unit to assist with tax law, immigration law, and identity theft. RLSO Japan’s legal assistance department gets results for clients and advocates for important policy changes on issues that matter to sailors and families in Japan, such as green card applications. For these reasons, this team of 18 individuals, including attorneys, legalmen, limited-duty sailors, and foreign national master labor contractors is highly deserving of the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Assistance for Military Personnel 2014 Distinguished Service Award.
Region Legal Service Office (RLSO) NorthwestThe Region Legal Service Office Northwest (RLSO NW) legal assistance (LA) department provided exceptional service during 2014 and distinguished itself by maintaining a superior LA program fully supporting the needs of authorized beneficiaries in the Pacific Northwest, the Navy’s third largest fleet concentration area. RLSO NW offers LA services at four office locations within the greater Seattle and Puget Sound area, and despite staffing shortages in 2014, military and civilian personnel in all four offices worked together to create a way to fill the gaps, overcome the challenges, and maintain high-quality LA services through creative thinking and a willingness to try new technology. As a result, the 20 military and civilian personnel assigned to the department provided over 17,000 personnel more than 30,000 legal services over the course of a year. Despite challenges created by distance between offices and personnel and resource limitations, the RLSO NW legal assistance department pulled together as a team to deliver timely, quality legal services to its active-duty servicemembers, family members, and retirees throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Mr. Nicholas King, Assistant Department Head, Region Legal Service Office (RLSO) Southwest