Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Baugh – an accomplished civilian attorney, as well as a former judge advocate and Navy Reserve member – re-affiliated with the Navy Reserve Law Program. Motivated by a sense of duty, Baugh re-commissioned after nearly 11 years of separation from naval service.
“Re-commissioning was like opening a door I thought was closed, and finding a renewed sense of purpose,” said Baugh. “It was a homecoming of sorts for me, except, this time around, I have the experience to impart to those who are just starting out.”
Baugh – a “military brat” – was born on Loring Air Force Base in Limestone, Maine, while his father served with the 69th Bomber Squadron in the U.S. Air Force. Baugh’s commitment to service is a family trait; in addition to his father’s legacy, his uncle, Lt. Col. (ret.) Howard Baugh, is a decorated Army Air Corps fighter pilot and one of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen.
After earning his Juris Doctorate degree from Texas Southern University, Baugh began his Navy career in 1999, serving as a prosecutor and completing operational law assignments.
Described by colleagues as an “all-in type of person,” in the summer of 2001, Baugh volunteered to deploy to the Persian Gulf as the staff judge advocate for an Amphibious Ready Group. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Baugh was one of a handful of Navy judge advocates advising on historic operations, including the temporary detention of John Walker Lindh aboard the USS Peleliu (LHA-5) in December 2001.
Baugh left active duty in 2002 and served as a member of the Navy Reserve Law Program until 2008.
After separating from the Navy, Baugh served as a Texas state prosecutor with the Travis County District Attorney’s Office in Austin, Texas, for a cumulative 12 years, until 2016. For an intermittent period -- from 2004 to 2006 – he practiced criminal defense in Richmond, Va.
Baugh was appointed in 2016 to his current post of Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. He oversees the prosecution of white-collar crime, narcotics trafficking, prescription fraud, and violent crime. He is the coordinator for the Human Trafficking Regional Task Force for the Southern District of Alabama, as well as the coordinator for the U.S. Attorney’s Office Community Outreach Programs, where he works alongside state and federal law enforcement partners to build positive relationships with area youth.
“With more than 68 contested jury trials to his credit more than 14 years of combined experience as both a prosecutor and defense attorney in state and federal courts, Chris is one of our JAG community’s most experienced litigators,” said Capt. Rock DeTolve, director of the Administrative Law Division at the Office of the Judge Advocate General (OJAG), and Baugh’s longtime colleague and friend.
“Chris is a great example of what our community needs to encourage and support,” he added.
Earlier this year, while DeTolve was out to dinner with mutual friends, Baugh’s name came up in conversation. DeTolve sent him a text message to encourage him to return to naval service, though he didn’t expect Baugh to take his plea seriously. However, Baugh was already mulling the idea, and, shortly afterward, DeTolve and Baugh worked together on his application to rejoin the Navy Reserve Law Program.
After he re-commissioned, Baugh was assigned to Navy Reserve’s Region Legal Service Office Naval District Washington (RLSO NDW), where he reunited professionally with DeTolve. In June, Baugh drilled for two weeks, and he contributed to work on a wide range of pending courts-martial at RLSO NDW. He also collaborated with OJAG’s Military Personnel Division and Howard University Law School to promote Navy JAG Corps recruiting efforts.
Baugh said that the key reasons he rejoined the JAG community were to share his experiences – both within and outside the Navy – with others, and to give back.
“I recall my time at my first duty station in San Diego; we were young and trying to figure the whole ‘trial thing’ out,” said Baugh. “We wanted to succeed, but were very cautious about not looking like we were clueless. Yet, I made plenty of mistakes. I believe success in the practice of law starts with checking our egos at the door and be willing to not only make those mistakes, but also learn from them.”
“The Navy created an environment where I was able to build my confidence as a young lawyer by providing a strong support system where I could benefit from the wealth of experience in my unit,” Baugh continued. “In turn, I hope to use my knowledge base and skillset as a seasoned prosecutor to mentor younger judge advocates as they begin their legal careers. My own path with the Navy has been so rewarding that I look forward to being a proponent for introducing the benefits of the JAG Corps to future candidates, all while playing my part in accomplishing the mission of the Navy.”
“With Chris, the funny thing is, at a point in his legal career where ‘resting on one’s laurels’ might have a distracting appeal, he's still chomping at the bit to serve in uniform and go do hard jobs, including deployment,” said DeTolve.
DeTolve said that his experiences with Baugh reinforced the principle that recruiting is all-hands effort, and that everyone – of all rates and ranks, and in all locations – can make a difference.
“While an important part of recruiting is organizational informational outreach, the crucial bit will almost always involve someone we know or meet as the ‘spark’ or catalyst that gets us to focus on the Navy JAG Corps,” said DeTolve. “One thing I’m convinced of is that, in addition to organizational and senior leader outreach, the better we enable more of our people to ‘crowdsource’ recruitment as individuals within a larger network, the better we’ll connect with the folks we need to take the JAG Corps forward.”
There currently are more than 600 Reserve judge advocates and petty officers practicing in the fields of military justice, national security law, legal assistance, admiralty, and other specialized areas. They serve throughout the U.S. and abroad.