Code in Perspective: Administrative Law (Code 13)

Located in the Pentagon, the Administrative Law Division (Code 13), which is a component of the Naval Civil Law Support Activity, is an office of 19 uniformed attorneys, two civilian […]

Located in the Pentagon, the Administrative Law Division (Code 13), which is a component of the Naval Civil Law Support Activity, is an office of 19 uniformed attorneys, two civilian attorneys, and three civilian employees. Known as The JAG’s Law Firm―the division is subdivided into four focused branches: Personnel Law; Standards of Conduct and Government Ethics; Legislation, Regulations, Freedom of Information Act, Privacy Act, and Disability Law; and Command Authorities.  Whether it’s transgender policy, don’t-ask-don’t-tell repeal, same-sex-partner benefits, first-amendment issues, evacuation of dependents, regulatory changes, promotions and discharges, or social media conduct, very few issues that come before the JAG don’t involve at least one of Code 13’s branches.

But the attorneys of Code 13 also have collateral duties. One attorney acts as the Office of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps (OJAG) Professional Responsibility Coordinator―providing informal professional ethics advice to other judge advocates, tracking bar status, conducting training for the Naval Justice School, and assisting the Rules Counsel in administrating the professional-conduct program on behalf of JAG.  Another attorney serves as the staff judge advocate and ethics counsel for the U.S. Navy Chief of Information (O-7).  And another serves as the staff judge advocate for the Chief of Chaplains of the Navy  (O-8).  Upon special request from the Office of the Vice President, one attorney is on temporary assignment to provide ethics advice to the Vice President’s staff.

Code 13 is also a primary source for OJAG’s surge capability―often deploying attorneys on short notice to support high-visibility investigations. Recent examples include:

  • The grounding of the USS Guardian (MCM-5) in the Sulu Sea
  • The mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard
  • The Chattanooga shooting incident
  • The capture of U.S. Navy Sailors by the Islamic Republic of Iran

Officers who are applying for their next assignment should strongly consider the Administrative Law Division. Few places in the Navy offer judge advocates such a well-rounded and diverse experience.  In three years at Code 13, most officers can expect to work in at least three different branches―becoming a subject-matter expert in diverse and important aspects of the JAG Corps’ portfolio.  And the flag-staff skills developed at Code 13 will serve alumni well when they are assigned to the various three-and-four-star staffs across the fleet.

Below, you can read a description of each Administrative Law branch:

Branch 131―the personnel-law experts.  Ensures the accuracy and legal sufficiency of all aspects of the annual promotion board season for active duty and Reserve Navy and Marine Corps personnel.  This includes the legal review of promotion plans, convening orders, precepts, board records of proceedings, appointments, nominations, flag and general officer retirements, and many other personnel actions that require SECNAV, SECDEF, or Presidential review and approval.  Branch 131 processes over 600 personnel packages per year and provides legal opinions on a wide range of personnel law issues, like draft executive orders and inter-service regulations.

Branch 132―the ethics experts.  Fields over 1,500 ethics questions in a year from the fleet.  Reviews over 300 public-financial-disclosure documents.  Conducts ethics reviews for OJAG.  Attorneys assigned to this branch provide legal counsel on subjects and situations that may cause ethical concerns.

Branch 133―legislation, regulations, Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act, and disability law experts.  Reviews OJAG FOIA requests and advises other commands on FOIA releases, policies, regulations, and procedures.  Processes line-of-duty and combat-related disability appeals for Navy and Marine Corps service members.  Reviews and coordinates all Department of the Navy submissions for the Federal Register and Code of Federal Regulations.  These attorneys are also responsible for the reviews and comments on 600 separate pieces of legislation and more than 100 regulations, directives, and instructions for the Department of Defense and Department of the Navy.  The OJAG Professional Responsibility Coordinator is dual-hatted and assigned to this branch.

Branch 134―command-authority experts.  Advises commanders and judge advocates on legal matters that relate to the rights, entitlements, and benefits of service members and their dependents.  Advises commanders on investigations and the commander’s authority.  Topics that fall under this branch include military rights and benefits, entitlements, investigations, administrative separation procedures, nonjudicial-punishment authority, and constitutional law matters related to freedom of speech, expression, religion, and assembly.  Process complaints of wrongs and equal-opportunity appeals for secretarial review.  Attorneys assigned to this branch act as the staff judge advocate and ethics counselor to the Chief of Information and the staff judge advocate to the Chief of Chaplains.