Mr. John Holtaway
American Bar Association
Commission on Multijurisdictional Practice
541 North Fairbanks Court, 14 th Floor
Chicago, Illinois 60611-3314
Dear Mr. Holtaway:
I write on behalf of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, to comment on the proposed amendments to Model Rules 5.5 and 8.5, presently under consideration by the American Bar Association’s Commission on Multijurisdictional Practice (the "Commission"). The Marine Corps strongly urges the Commission to include an additional "safe harbor" for military attorneys practicing outside their licensing jurisdictions.
The Marine Corps legal assistance program, which operates under the aegis of 10 U.S.C. § 1044, et seq., provides free legal representation to eligible clients at approximately 20 locations throughout the world. At present, the Marine Corps has more than 40 attorneys engaged in the legal assistance program, very few of whom are licensed in the state in which they are located. The vast majority of services provided through the program are rendered in the legal assistance attorney’s office, aboard a military installation or vessel. The Marine Corps legal assistance program embraces a wide spectrum of issues, but focuses mostly on estate planning, family law, immigration and naturalization, consumer rights, taxation, notary services, and various other civil matters. Last year, our program provided services in more than 100,000 separate matters. Of our active duty clients, 90% were enlisted, and generally did not earn enough income to retain private counsel for assistance in such matters. Indeed, the Marine Corps legal assistance program is now regarded as a significant benefit of military service, and a major quality of life program that enhances duty performance and retention of personnel.
There is a genuine need to provide additional professional security to our counsel engaged in this program. While some states, such as Virginia, are considering allowing our legal assistance attorneys to practice in their courts regardless of their licensure in Virginia, other states have adopted a much more restrictive view of what is permitted. Given the substantial number of clients that this program assists, the fact that in most instances our clients are not domiciles of the state in which they perform their military duties, and that this program is administered and supervised by the Secretary of the Navy under Title 10 of the U.S. Code, the creation of an additional "safe harbor" for our legal assistance attorneys is an important matter to the Marine Corps.
Thank you for considering our request. Should the Committee require addition information regarding this matter, please contact Mr. Christopher B. Rydelek, Head of the Legal Assistance Branch, Judge Advocate Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps at (703) 614-1266.
K. H. WINTERS
Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps
Staff Judge Advocate to the
Commandant of the Marine Corps