Every year, the American Bar Association (ABA) recognizes an exemplary practitioner, as well as a legal team, with the prestigious Legal Assistance for Military Personnel (LAMP) Distinguished Service Awards. In March, the ABA Standing Committee announced the 2019 recipients: Lt. Rosemarie Lombardi from the Region Legal Service Office (RLSO) Southeast Branch Office in New Orleans, La., received the individual award; and the RLSO Southwest Legal Assistance Department received the group award.
Individual LAMP Distinguished Service Award, Lt. Rosemarie Lombardi
Lombardi has expanded and reinvigorated the JAG community’s New Orleans practice. She has fostered lasting local relationships through an innovative approach and unfailingly positive attitude. She has provided more than 450 legal services and drafted more than 100 estate-planning packages, while expanding legal assistance services by 300 percent when compared to 2018.
“Lt. Lombardi is an exceptional officer and lawyer. Her sharp mind, superior ability, and client-oriented approach to her duties have made her a standout officer and the quintessential example for other junior officers to emulate,” Capt. Joseph Hoelz, commanding officer of RLSO Southeast.
“Her leadership and dedication to mission are key to the continuous success and extraordinary reputation of the New Orleans office and the JAG Corps,” Hoelz added. “She is an extraordinary judge advocate whose professionalism and dedication enhance the mission and reputation of the [JAG Corps] and merit this award.”
Lombardi established a well-subscribed, weekly "legal assistance day" at Marine Corps Support Facility New Orleans. She also visited local courts to better understand Louisiana’s singular legal assistance practices, and she cultivated relationships with nationwide subject matter experts in order to provide more tailored assistance to her clients.
While developing standard operating procedures for the branch office, Lombardi coordinated with local Army attorneys to synchronize their approach to estate planning in Louisiana. She identified and made innovative use of a Louisiana state law for the reduction of interest rates for service members, including those with debts incurred after service. As a result, she saved her clients thousands of dollars.
“I was so honored and appreciate the opportunity to serve this community. It has been exciting and fulfilling to work with a dedicated team to provide these services. It is truly humbling to be recognized for our efforts,” Lombardi said.
“I know all the hard work and time that all Navy legal assistance offices do and to be the one that is recognized is a true privilege,” Lombardi commented. “The level of service we were able to provide is a direct function of teamwork combined with the support and trust from our leadership.”
Group LAMP Distinguished Service Award, RLSO Southwest
During 2019, RLSO Southwest provided nearly 20,000 legal services, represented more than 20 Sailors in Servicemembers Civil Relief Act cases, and increased Fleet outreach by 40 percent when compared to 2018. The Legal Assistance Department prepared nearly 1,400 federal and state tax return – 70 percent of all tax returns prepared through the Navy’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program – returning more than $2.3 million to military taxpayers.
At RLSO Southwest, 2019 was punctuated by two major incidents: the Go Navy Tax Service crisis and the twin Ridgecrest earthquakes.
The Go Navy Tax Service was a tax preparer in San Diego that defrauded more than $4.8 million from more than 100 Sailors. The Legal Assistance Department was the first to identify the fraud and help Sailors cancel the fraudulent insurance policies and repair their tax returns. The team organized outreach efforts, identified victims, and coordinated with the region and the district attorney’s office to warn the public. Their efforts led to closure of the office and felony charges against the owners.
In China Lake, Calif., two back-to-back earthquakes devastated the local installation, causing $5 billion in damage and disrupting the lives of 180 families. Mobilizing teams across the region, the RLSO Southwest Legal Assistance Department provided exceptional service to every military family affected. The team proactively contacted and educated them about personal claims and public-private venture (PPV) housing policies. They met with PPV housing officials to help secure insurance coverage, recovering nearly $2 million of insurance relief.
“No matter the situation, RLSO Southwest’s legal assistance team showed outstanding readiness and inexhaustible capacity to provide effective, efficient, and high-quality legal advice whenever and wherever it was needed,” Cmdr. Ian Wolf, executive officer of RLSO Southwest.”
“They solved novel and complex issues with speed and precision.” Wolf added. “RLSO Southwest’s Legal Assistance team are exceptional JAG Corps ambassadors to the fleet and greatly enhanced the morale, welfare, and readiness of over 100k Sailors, Marines, and their families.”
“This award recognizes the outstanding service of so many legal assistance providers, past and present, uniformed and civilian, throughout the entire southwest region.” Lt.Cmdr. Brian Roach, RLSO SW legal assistance department head. “It was truly a team effort.”
Roach added. “No one wants major incidents, but when they do happen it’s great to be able to provide superlative legal assistance that helps keep our forces focused on their own missions.”
Please join us in congratulating 2019’s ABA LAMP Distinguished Service Award winners!