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News > ADC prioritizes client's "best interest"
ADC prioritizes client's "best interest"

Posted 12/9/2012   Updated 12/9/2012 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Marianique Santos
36th Wing Public Affairs

12/9/2012 - ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- Under investigation, facing an Article 15, letter of reprimand or other adverse actions? There is a place where you can seek confidential help.

The Area Defense Counsel program was set in place to eliminate the stigma that defense counsels worked in some way for the accused's chain of command.

Under the provisions of Article 31 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Compulsory self-incrimination prohibited, an Air Force member suspected of committing a criminal offense has the right to remain silent and the right to consult with a military defense counsel free of charge prior to making any statements.

"I'm not rated by anyone on base; my only loyalty is to my client," said Captain Ian Holzhauer, Andersen's Area Defense Counsel. "This is so I can freely advocate for the Airmen. If an Airman comes through my door and I see a legal problem with why and how their command wants them out of the service, I can fight for them. My job is to do what's in the best interest of my clients."

Established in 1974, the Area Defense Counsel's prime responsibility is to vigorously and ethically represent Airmen facing adverse military actions and to make sure that Airmen are properly advised on their situation and the UCMJ.

"My goal is for 100 percent of Article 15 recipients to come by," said Captain Holzhauer. "We advertise with our posters all over the base and speak with First Term Airmen Center students. We also let the command know that it's in their best interest to make sure an Airman comes and talks to us before they respond to an Article 15 or any adverse military action they are faced with. It doesn't help anyone if the process is not fair and someone is punished too harshly for something that has not been proven."

Prior to being nominated for the ADC position, judge advocates start off at base legal offices where they hone their skills as prosecutors in cases, including court martials. Exceptional JAGs at the legal office get nominated to be ADCs, usually after two base legal office tours. This process is in place to ensure that JAGs appointed to become ADCs have the experience and skill set to assist the Airmen in need of counsel.

Upon assuming the role of ADC, the JAG no longer works under any unit or chain on base; instead, they fall under the Air Force Legal Operation Agency in Washington, D.C.

"The JAG Corps set up the ADC structure to get special permission to have our assignments completely separate from the commands in the bases we're located," said Captain Holzhauer. "My boss is a senior defense counsel who is at Kadena Air Base, Japan. My chain of command is separate from the 36th Wing."

Alongside ADCs are the defense paralegals who help the Airmen prior to their meeting with the ADC. They schedule appointments, review cases and give Airmen a general idea of what they could be facing.

"I sit down and talk to them about the situation," said Tech. Sgt. Tara Padua, Andersen's defense paralegal. "A lot of young Airmen don't know how the system works."

"Before they leave here I make sure they're mentally okay," she continued. "I have seen people distraught because they feel like they hit rock bottom. I would either call mental health, a chaplain or a supervisor. If they don't prefer any of those, we stay here and talk with them. They can vent freely because they have 100 percent confidentiality."

Similar to civilian law, attorney-client privilege is afforded to Airmen in their discussions with ADCs and defense paralegals. Information given within the ADC office by a military member seeking advice is held in strict confidence unless disclosed as part of the defense during the case with the permission of the client.

"They could tell me what they're thinking and have a full frank discussion," said Captain Holzhauer. "Without my client's permission I will never talk to their commander, spouse or anybody else about what they told me."

From providing information and advice to keeping confidentiality and advocating in court, the ADC is one among many avenues the Air Force offers to uphold Airmen's rights and ensure that the accused are considered innocent until proven guilty.

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