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judge advocate division

The United States Marine Corps' Judge Advocate Division serves both to advise the Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC) and other officials in Headquarters, Marine Corps on legal matters, and to oversee the Marine Corps legal community. The head of the Judge Advocate Division (JAD) is the Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant (SJA to CMC).

Judge Advocates (JAs) in the Marine Corps work under the supervision of the SJA to the CMC to advise Marine commanders regarding legal issues including the laws of war, and handling of criminal cases under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Marine Corps lawyers are line officers, unlike their counterparts in the United States Navy and Army, which means they can fill any officer billet in the Fleet Marine Force.


The SJA to CMC has three deputies. One serves as Deputy SJA and Deputy Director of JAD for HQMC Legal Support. Another serves as Deputy Director of JAD for Military Justice and Community Development. The third serves as Deputy Director of JAD for Reserve Legal Support. JAD is divided into seven branches that fall under two of the three deputies:

  • Deputy SJA and Deputy Director, JAD, HQMC Legal Support
    • JAA – Administrative Support: manages the internal administrative requirements of JAD
    • JCA – Civil and Administrative Law: legal review and guidance on civil and most administrative law matters, including professional responsibility
    • JPL – Military Personnel Law: full range of military personnel law matters
    • JAO – International and Operational Law: full range of international and operational law matters
  • Deputy Director, JAD, Military Justice and Community Development
    • JMJ – Military Law: advice on military justice policy and legislation, and advising and assisting trial counsel in the field
    • JCD – Community Development, Strategy, and Plans: long-term strategic planning, writing and managing legal community doctrine, strategic communications, coordination of judge advocate manpower requirements and assignments, and overall coordination of IT support for legal community
    • JLA – Legal Assistance: administers Marine Corps legal assistance program under 10 U.S.C. § 1044
  • Deputy Director, JAD, Reserve Legal Support – oversees the provision of Reserve legal support to the Marine Corps and heads the JAD Individual Mobilization Augmentee (IMA) Detachment

The SJA to CMC also exercises functional supervision over three independent legal organizations within the Marine Corps:

  • DSO – Defense Services Organization: headed by the Chief Defense Counsel of the Marine Corps, the DSO provides defense counsel services to Marines worldwide
  • VLCO – Victims' Legal Counsel Organization: headed by the Officer in Charge, the VLCO provides certain legal services to eligible victims of crime
  • TSO – Trial Services Organization: headed by the Chief Trial Counsel of the Marine Corps, the TSO provides trial counsel services to Marines worldwide.