A Day in the Life of Admiralty Attorney Lt. Cmdr. Kyle Fralick

From Navy JAG Corps Public Affairs

This first decade of Lt. Cmdr. Kyle Fralick’s Navy JAG Corps career was diverse and accomplished, and it prepared him well for his current assignment at the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Fralick graduated from the JAG Corps Basic Lawyer Course in 2009, and he subsequently reported to Region Legal Service Office (RLSO) Southwest as Trial Counsel. In 2011, he completed an Individual Augmentee assignment to Afghanistan as part of the Rule of Law Field Force.

The following year, Fralick was assigned to RLSO Naval District Washington, where he worked as an installation Staff Judge Advocate and later Trial Counsel. From 2014 to 2016, he served aboard USS America (LHA-6) as the Command Judge Advocate.

In 2016, Fralick reported to the Office of the Judge Advocate General (OJAG) in Washington, D.C. where he worked as an admiralty attorney for two years. During that time, he served as the USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) collision lead. He coordinated multiple marine collision damage surveys, supported the Navy’s technical representatives on the National Transportation Safety Board, and served as the DOJ’s damage proof lead, directly negotiating with Tokyo based opposing counsel.

Then, in 2018, he received a special opportunity. He was assigned to the DOJ’s Civil Division, Torts Branch, Aviation, Space and Admiralty Litigation Section as a Trial Attorney. During the past two years, Fralick has acquired unparalleled experiences and expertise.

“My days are never the same. Since coming to the DOJ, I’ve been on the road a lot interviewing witnesses, conducting document discovery, or prepping and defending depositions,” said Fralick. “When I’m in the office, and during downtime when traveling, I may be drafting documents, conducting research, reviewing discovery, or just generally managing the infinite number details of cases in litigation, such as scheduling matters, meetings, telephone calls with counsel or judges, and discovery logistics.”

DOJ’s Aviation, Space, and Admiralty Litigation Section has approximately 40 attorneys and 15 paralegals and support staff between its two offices in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. Like the Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard also details one judge advocate to the office. Two senior civilian attorneys who report to the Deputy Assistant Attorney General (DAAG) for Torts, a political appointee, lead the Section. Above the DAAG is the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Law.

Most of the attorneys in the office have significant prior experience from law firms and other government agencies. There are many licensed pilots, current and former civilian mariners, and several attorneys that either retired from the military, or have prior military service. The office has a wide and deep breadth of litigation experience in federal tort claims, admiralty and maritime law, environmental law, government contracts and administrative procedures, and international law to name just a few of
the practice areas.

“It is an excellent atmosphere to learn civil litigation, something judge advocates don’t often have a chance to do, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of colleagues and mentors. These are truly some of the best of the best,” Fralick said.

In November 2019, the DOJ recognized Fralick with a special commendation award in recognition of particularly outstanding acts and services that have materially contributed to the successful accomplishment of division objectives for his key role on the Fitzgerald-ACX Crystal Collision Team. The
combined DOJ-Navy admiralty team recovered the largest affirmative claim – prior to litigation – in Navy JAG community’s history.

“Kyle was the most valuable player in our Fitzgerald collision settlement in Tokyo. A Deputy Assistant Attorney General and I were in the room as Kyle wore down the Japanese law firm experts. It was eye-wateringly good,” said Capt. Albert Janin, director of OJAG’s Admiralty and Maritime Law Division (Code 11), who has working alongside Fralick for nearly four years.

Currently, Fralick’s is actively working two cases. First, In re Energetic Tank, Inc., 1:18-cv-1359 (S.D.N.Y. 2018), the civil litigation stemming from the 2017 collision between USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) and ALNIC MC. Second, Systems Application & Technologies, Inc. v. United States, 8:18-cv-02607 (D. Md. 2018), a Contracts Disputes Act complaint related to back wages allegedly owed to the plaintiff’s employees, who are Navy contractors, for overtime and “sleep-at-sea” while on Navy vessels.   

Later this year, Fralick will conclude his one-year DOJ assignment and report to CTF-51 in Bahrain as the Staff Judge Advocate. He will be replaced at the DOJ by Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Bright, another Code 11 alumni.

Reflecting back on the past year, Fralick says that the most important lesson that he has learned is to not forget the basics.

“The McCain collision litigation has required closer and more continuous coordination between DOJ and the Navy than any case in recent history. The many different investigations following the collision and the ongoing depositions and document discovery have touched almost every corner of the Navy in some way. Out of this immense effort, the DOJ-Navy litigation team has developed several novel processes to manage work-flow, ensure Navy and DOD information security requirements are observed, and comply with all court orders and deadlines,” Fralick said.

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