News | June 7, 2021

Legal Assistance Award Ceremony

By Lt. Rich Aviles, Legal Assistance Division

During an All Hands call, Capt. Rock De Tolve, acting Assistant Judge Advocate General for Civil Law, presented awards for individual achievement and commended the Office of the Judge Advocate General's Legal Assistance Division (Code 16) team for its extraordinary mission impact during 2020, at the Washington Navy Yard.   

Capt. De Tolve presented Code 16's acting Division Director Ms. Kate Somerville with the Department of the Navy (DON) Superior Civilian Service Award in recognition of her selection as the 2020 OJAG Civilian Attorney of the Year.  He also presented the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal to Code 16 Action Officer Lt. Jason Kim on completion of his three year Code 16 tour and ahead of his upcoming permanent change of station move to serve as Staff Judge Advocate to the Navy's Singapore Area Coordinator.  Also participating were Deputy Code 16 Division Director Lt. Rich Aviles and Lt. Kim's relief, Lt. Dallin Sopp also joined, having recently reported aboard from RLSO Midwest.

Both Capt. De Tolve and Ms. Somerville praised Lt. Kim's legal acumen, versatility and breadth of accomplishments during his three-year Code 16 assignment, including standout performance both as a Disability Evaluation System (DES) counsel (representing 25 wounded, ill, and injured Sailors and Marines before the DON Formal Physical Evaluation Board (FPEB)) and as a Legal Assistance Policy Action Officer (during which time he managed the Navy's worldwide Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and led the Navy's Military Naturalization Outreach Program in engaging thousands of non-citizen Sailors and ensuring their access to U.S. citizenship assistance and resources). 

Capt. De Tolve also expressed appreciation for Lt. Kim's performance of significant additional duties in support of OJAG's Administrative Law Division (Code 13) Command Authorities Branch, where his work ethic and excellent legal analysis helped shape numerous Department of Defense and Navy policies and were instrumental in driving down Secretariat complaints of wrong appeal processing times.

Capt. De Tolve then recognized Ms. Somerville for her superb leadership and the Code 16 team's wide-ranging mission impact.  “Ms. Somerville's impact as a lawyer, leader, and JAG Corps Teammate have simply been stunning" he said. 

He first noted the impressive sweep of her legal career (including two decades of support to individual clients struggling with consumer law, family law, estate planning, and family law issues) and highlighted her work both as a pro-bono attorney in private practice, her seven years as a JAG Corps legal assistance attorney within Naval Legal Service Command (NLSC) and her eleven years leading Code 16.  

Noting Ms. Somerville's longstanding role as OJAG's "backbone" in providing substantive training, mentorship and subject matter expertise to all Navy JAG Corps legal assistance practitioners worldwide, he lauded her for her proactive, February, 2020 assessment of ability to provide remote, global legal assistance services as well as for her rapid follow-on actions to acquire necessary hardware and software, enabling JAG Corps practitioners world-wide to remotely provide legal solutions to Sailors and families as the COVID-19 pandemic gripped all aspects of daily life. 

More broadly, he highlighted Ms. Somerville's superb track record for spotting law and policy gaps and then tirelessly engaging with colleagues, clients and leadership across NLSC, the DON, the Services, OSD and other federal agencies to effect needed change, specifically noting her role as key architect and effective advocate in support of the DON's legislative proposal for digital notarization authority as well as DON's interagency military naturalization efforts.

In addition to her expansive legal assistance policy responsibilities, during the first half of 2020, Ms. Somerville served dual-hatted as Acting Director, Disability Evaluation System Counsel Program (DESCP), where she worked closely with DESCP Deputy Director Mr. James Carsten in leading 60 civilian attorneys and staff in the provision of services to 3,000 Service members nationwide, establishing four new DESCP offices, and enabling the DESCP to sustain robust, efficient services during the pandemic.

Bravo Zulu to Ms. Somerville, Lt. Kim, and Lt. Aviles for their exemplary teamwork and remarkable achievements in support of our JAG Corps' legal assistance mission!