Captain Fabiani Duarte is Special Victims’ Counsel at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. In this capacity, Capt Duarte provides independent legal representation to and advocacy on behalf of sexual assault victims during the investigation and the military justice process.
Capt Duarte entered active duty in June 2017. He graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Global Communications and Politics, a self-created interdisciplinary major combining Spanish, French, Italian, Communication Studies and Political Science. After college, Capt Duarte worked as a real estate law clerk and later became an AmeriCorps VISTA (domestic Peace Corps) member supporting a non-profit helping veterans find jobs, receive counseling, and obtain their VA benefits. Capt Duarte has also served as a pastoral intern, Spanish teacher, translator, and summer youth minister at churches in Alabama and Georgia.
In May 2016, Capt Duarte received his Juris Doctor from Mercer University Law School. While at Mercer Law, he was nationally elected as Chair of the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Law Student Division, representing and advocating for 115,000 US law students. Capt Duarte also externed at the Macon-Bibb District Attorney’s Office and the 78th Air Base Wing Office of the Staff Judge Advocate at Robins AFB, GA. In May 2015, he was named an AFJAG Pathways Program Summer Intern. Capt Duarte also achieved a Masters of Arts in Christian Ministry at Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta in May 2017. Capt Duarte remains active in the ABA and the ABA Young Lawyer’s Division, recently named a YLD Emerging Leader, YLD Scholar, and YLD Council Representative for the Federal and Military Bar. He is also a member of the Alabama State Bar and is admitted to practice law before the Supreme Court of Alabama.
When people ask me what it's like to be a JAG attorney in the US Air Force, I often share what a fulfilling professional privilege it has been to, in my first two years of service, to have worked as a prosecutor, a chief of legal assistance and civil law, and now as a Special Victims' Counsel (SVC) for survivors of sexual assault crimes. In both of my assignments at bases in New Mexico and Germany, paralegals have been pillars of technical competence, institutional knowledge, and practical experience which have ensured successful practices for me and my fellow JAG colleagues. Their commitment to the mission has not just lightened my load, but their partnership has allowed me to be a more effective practitioner. For example, the young Airmen and non-commissioned officers that make-up the paralegal corps are the individuals who make the trains run on time in military justice and civil law shops. From drafting charge sheets to processing and compiling records of trial, and from being the face of a legal office to coordinating travel witnesses and experts, our Air Force paralegals manage the tedious and many times thankless behind-the-scenes work that ensures that punishment is enacted, claims are processed, fundraisers are approved, and that trials and hearings actually happen.
During my current assignment as an SVC, I frequently state to friends and colleagues that I actually feel like I work for my paralegal. It is thanks to her organization, base-wide engagement, and professional problem-solving that the office I arrived at was so well respected, responsive, and trusted. To me, she is more than a staff sergeant; she's my right hand partner whose counsel and feedback allow me to focus on the interests of our clients and advocate for the best paths to achieving justice, closure, and healing in the aftermath of what are many times traumatic and life-altering assaults.
My motivation to work with the Standing Committee on Paralegals and Approval Commission stems not just from my formative years working alongside paralegals in the military, but my desire to serve on this team is also rooted in a period before going to law school when I myself was a paralegal. After graduating from undergrad, I worked as a Closing Coordinator at a small real-estate law practice in my hometown. I was trained by and worked closely with a core team of paralegals whose vast responsibilities and wise professional example not only showed me how much knowledge they possessed, but critical role in the daily success of the firm.
My experiences both as an attorney and as a young paralegal before that have solidified my appreciation and respect for this essential component of our profession. I would not be the attorney I am today nor would I have the trial experience, client-base, or battle-tested solutions that they helped me craft without the partnership of a paralegal. The paralegal corps deserves to be respected and appreciated for the critical mission support they provide and I am eager to be one more voice advocating for individuals who in the Air Force we are proud to call our Wingmen.