News | Dec. 16, 2021

Reserve Judge Advocates Support Hurricane Recovery

By Navy JAG Corps Public Affairs

Cmdr. Mark deVry and Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Dursa – both admiralty law specialists affiliated with the Navy Reserve Law Program (NRLP) – recently returned home after volunteering on short notice to assist Louisiana officials in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.  The storm – which made landfall in late August and early September – was the deadliest and most destructive Louisiana hurricane since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

In August, the intensity of the storm threat prompted a pre-landfall presidential emergency declaration for the states of Louisiana and Mississippi.  Hurricane Ida ultimately caused significant damage, including sustained power outages and devastation to homes, property, and maritime vessels of all varieties.  The storm sunk many boats in canals and bayous, and shipping slowed significantly until waterways were cleared.

Upon arriving in Louisiana, deVry and Dursa immediately were engaged in the clearing of sunken vessels and debris.  The judge advocates interpreted and applied laws pertaining to the salvage of ships so navigation could be restored for commercial fishing, energy, and other critical industries. 

“One thing I want to highlight about this mission is that Cmdr. deVry and Lt. Cmdr. Dursa demonstrated the quintessential value of the Reserve component,” said their commanding officer at NRLP’s National Security Law Unit, Capt. Ping Wang.

“As a backup force for active-duty personnel, Reserve members are valuable when we can answer the call of duty at any time.  Despite having many obligations, including managing busy and successful legal careers, both of our Reserve officers dropped all matters – both business and personal – to support of their active-duty component.  Within a week of being called, we had boots on the ground.  Both Cmdr. deVry and Lt. Cmdr. Dursa are rare subject-matter experts in the specialized and complex practice of admiralty law, so the Navy relied heavily on them to support this urgent mission.  They did not disappoint,” added Wang.

Louisiana’s response to Hurricane Ida was aided by an Inter-Service Support Agreement (ISSA) between the Army Corps of Engineers and the Navy’s Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV), which jointly provided wreck removal and salvage assistance.  Dursa and deVry supported the ISSA by interpreting the Wreck Act within the River and Harbor Act – as well as the Salvage Facilities Act – which authorized various military activities.

“Lt. Cmdr. Dursa and I appreciated the opportunity to work with the dedicated team of SUPSALV, Army Corps of Engineers, and contract professionals in helping the businesses and citizens of Louisiana recover their vessels and clear critical waterways in the aftermath of a major disaster like Hurricane Ida,” said deVry.

From Malvern, Penn., deVry has a bachelor of arts degree from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, a juris doctor degree from the University of Maryland, and a master of business administration degree from the Yale School of Management. 

After becoming a Navy judge advocate in 2008, deVry served as a senior defense counsel; senior trial counsel; admiralty counsel; and staff judge advocate, including deployments to Helmand, Afghanistan as a Rule of Law field service officer and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as the Joint Task Force Litigation Support Team Deputy.  As a civilian, deVry leads a strategic advisory practice focused on investment, trade, and supply chain risk and regulation.

After earning his bachelor of engineering from the State University of New York Maritime College, Dursa was commissioned as an ensign in the Navy Reserve, Merchant Marine Reserve.  He sailed as a civilian mariner with Military Sealift Command before attending law school.  He was commissioned via the Navy JAG Corps Student Program in 2006.  After graduating from Tulane University Law School, with a certificate of specialization in Admiralty Law, he began active-duty service in 2008.

Outside the Navy, Dursa is the Chief Compliance Officer at W.S. Darley & Co., a provider of goods and services in the fire, emergency, and tactical markets.  He hails from the Chicago area, and he completed his master of business administration degree at the University of Notre Dame in May of 2020.
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