Anaeli Sandoval is interning with the Army JAG Corps in El Paso, Texas. She will be working in the Military Justice department helping the JAG Officers prepare cases and charge sheets in connection with court martials and administrative separation hearings.
My day starts early, at 5:30 a.m., doing Physical Training (PT) with the entire JAG Office. When I walk into the office at 9:00 a.m., I am handed a file and told to review it in its entirety. I need to compose a summary of the facts, determine if there is enough evidence to charge the alleged suspect, and, if so, what charges can be brought. Cases vary from drug possession, to child pornography, to rape, and anything in between. I feel comfortable handling these cases because of the guidance I received from my W&L professors. Normally, students get to practice their IRAC analysis on final exams. However, some of my professors emailed practice questions and old exams to their students to help them practice. Their open-door policy extended to helping students learn the skills it takes to be a great lawyer, both in and out of the classroom. It is because of these practice questions, and both classroom and office guidance, that I am confident in analyzing facts and translating them into real life criminal charges.
Once the attorney and I go over my findings, I draft up a charge sheet and, together, we speak with the soldier’s top three commanders and provide our recommendation based on the facts. If the Commander agrees with our recommendation and decides to prefer charges on the soldier, the JAG Officer will swear the Commander under oath, and the Commander will call the soldier in to the office and prefer charges. Side note: In the Army, it is the Commanders who direct the next steps and decide what actions they want to take with one of their soldiers. JAG Officers are merely there to guide Commanders and provide their recommendation as to what action, legally, would be in the best interest of the Army. In the end, it is up to the soldier’s top three Commanders to decide what actions to take. These steps might seem monotonous to any individual, but they are critical. If this process is tweaked in any way, the case can be thrown out at a later Court-Martial.
One of the requirements for all first-year law students at W&L is to prepare a brief and have a mock Appellate argument. My professor paired us up against a fellow classmate and had us present our argument in the Moot Courtroom with him and, at times, two other judges. This had to have been one of the most terrifying experiences of my first-year. However, it was also one of the best, as it forced me to stand up and defend my position. It is because of this experience that I have the confidence to get up in front of a Commander in the United States Army and tell her what my recommendation is, what that recommendation is based on, and why I believe it is in the best interest of the Army.