The Fiscal Year 2019 Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps In-Service Procurement Program (IPP) selection board met in February to consider 15 highly qualified applicants and selected Legalman 1st Class Matthew B. Burns, Strategic Communications Wing One (SCW-1) the second legalman selectee in the program’s five-year history.
“My career has allowed me to see several attorneys argue in court,” said Burns. “Sometimes for something seemingly minor like excluding a cumulative witness, and sometimes for something pivotal like a 917 motion at the end of the government’s case. I was fascinated by everything. I found myself respecting the arguments of both sides as the defense counsel advocated for a Sailor, and the prosecutor fought to maintain good order and discipline.”
The Navy JAG Corps IPP selection board used the “whole person” concept to identify those applicants with the greatest potential for successful service as a Navy judge advocate.
“Since joining the Navy’s legal community, my goal has been to become a JAG,” said Burns. “I believe that my service to my country would be best spent as a legal advocate for the Navy and its Sailors. To this end, I have sharpened my legal research and writing skills and gained trial advocacy experience through administrative separation boards. Commissioning as a JAG officer will allow me to continue perfecting those skills with which I could greater serve the Navy.”
Burns enlisted in the Navy in 2009 and began his career as an Electronic Warfare Supervisor. In 2014 he became a legalman and reported to Region Legal Service Office Europe, Africa, SW Asia where he served as a leading petty officer, paralegal, and court reporter of the office’s headquarters in Naples. Burns earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Maryland University College in 2017 and is currently pursuing a Juris Doctor at Oklahoma City University School of Law where he is a member of the Oklahoma City University Law Review.
“Beyond his obvious talents and work ethic, LN1 Burns has a strong a passion for his work and is interested in all aspects of the law, not just the hot topics or high-visibility issues,” said Capt. Johnny M. Nilsen, Force Judge Advocate for Commander, Naval Air Forces/U.S. Pacific Fleet. “That passion extends to his naval service as a whole. I am especially impressed that, despite all of the efforts LN1 Burns puts into his official duties, he has managed to attend law school during his off-hours. He has distinguished himself as a stand-out in the legalman rating, and I believe he will continue to do so in the JAG community.”
The JAG Corps IPP provides both funded and unfunded paths to JAG Corps commissions. Sailors who have earned a baccalaureate degree may apply for funded legal education; Sailors who have already earned a Juris Doctor degree from an American Bar Association accredited law school and a bar license from any U.S. state or territory, Puerto Rico, or the District of Columbia may apply for direct commission.
“LN1 Burns and I have worked together at SCW-1 since I checked onboard in June 2018,” said Lt. Benjamin W. Haight. “LN1 Burns is an active participant and typically briefs most of the current legal issues to the Commodore, Deputy Commodore, and Command Master Chief. He is an excellent oral advocate and he seamlessly handles tough legal questions from experienced line officers.”
The JAG Corps IPP is open to active-duty enlisted personnel and Navy full-time support personnel, in any rating or military occupational specialty, in pay grades E-5 through E-7 with at least two years and not more than 10 years of service at the time of application. Applicants must be at least 21 years old and under the age of 42 by the time of commissioning. Complete application procedures and education requirements are provided in an annual NAVADMIN and can be found in the “Careers” section of the JAG Corps website.
“Since high school, I thought I would enjoy being a lawyer,” said Burns. “That is ultimately why I decided to cross-rate to legalman, to see if I would enjoy a career in law. Turns out, I love it. I learned about the program once I got into the JAG community, and I figured if I applied, the worst anyone could tell me was “no”.”