News | Aug. 19, 2014

Environmental Law (Code 12)

By Lt. Cmdr. Hollis Simodynes, Environmental Law (Code 12)

The Office of the Judge Advocate General Environmental Law Division (Code 12) provides subject matter expertise to the Navy Judge Advocate General on the impact of environmental law on naval operations.  Given the increasing focus over the last 15 years by regulators and non-governmental organizations on potential impacts from Navy training and testing on oceans, marine mammals and fisheries, the practice of environmental law is one of the most dynamic and challenging specialties available to Navy judge advocates today.

The Code 12 office, located at the Pentagon, consists of two attorneys who advise the JAG on environmental and energy law and policy.  In addition, Code 12 details five judge advocates to offices in Washington, DC that span the spectrum of the Navy’s environmental law practice. One judge advocate is detailed to the Executive Office of the President, staff of the National Ocean Council.  The Council is charged with implementing the National Ocean Policy, which is intended to ensure that Regional Planning Bodies develop holistic and detailed marine spatial plans that balance economic security, environmental protection, and national security for their respective regions.  The judge advocate assigned also works for the Council on Environmental Quality helping to set the administration's environmental priorities, including its ocean priorities.

Another judge advocate assigned to the DoD General Counsel Office for Environment and Installations provides legal guidance and interpretation of federal environmental laws to the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Installations and Environment (DUSD (I&E)).  The DUSD (I&E)’s office oversees the implementation of dozens of environmental programs and billions of dollars in annual appropriations. As the Fleet and Operational Environmental Law Counsel to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations, and Environment (ASN (EI&E)), the third judge advocate provides legal and policy advice on Navy and Marine Corps fleet and operational environmental law.  This includes litigation matters, as well as National Ocean Policy and compatibility planning issues, including energy law and policy. Working for OPNAV N45 as the Deputy Legal Counsel to the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, Fleet Readiness and Logistics, the fourth judge advocate provides legal advice on issues related to environment, energy, compatibility, supply and logistics, military sealift, readiness and ranges, and installations.

The Navy Litigation Office offers the fifth judge advocate an opportunity to litigate claims under environmental statutes like National Environmental Policy Act and the Superfund Act, as well as claims involving contracts and the takings clause.  The judge advocate at the Navy Litigation Office has the opportunity to work directly with the Fleet (their staff and experts) to prepare discovery and/or testimony; Pentagon leadership to ensure the litigation position is consistent with the Navy policy; and the Department of Justice to present the agency's case. If you have an interest in environmental, installation, compatibility, and energy law, consider pursuing your LL.M. and requesting one of the varied billets in Code 12, where you will have the opportunity to support the Navy's mission in a complex and challenging practice of law. 

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