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A reservist army judge advocate general has filed a federal challenge to the U.S. Army rule that prohibits members of the JAG corps from engaging in the civilian practice of law. Lawyer Gary M. Bowman filed the complaint after the Army put a reprimand letter in his file for engaging in the civilian practice of law while he was on active duty. Bowman disputes the charge and says that the Army’s rule as written is so broad that it prohibits the practice of law by active-duty and reservist JAGs alike. He wants the rule declared unconstitutional. Bowman, who handles about 300 cases per year as a bankruptcy lawyer in Roanoke, Va., said the Army’s quick mobilization left him with little time to wrap up his cases. He filed the complaint as a class action, to prevent the army from rebuking him, and other reservist JAGs, under a blanket rule against civilian practice. G.M. Bowman v. R.L. Brownlee, Acting Secretary of the Army, No. 7:04-CV-00320 (W.D. Va.). USED AN ARMY FAX Bowman, who declined to be interviewed for this story, was mobilized to active duty at Fort Eustis in Newport News, Va., where he was stationed for eight months to work on legal issues related to the overseas deployment of other reserve units. While there, he used a government fax machine to send a correspondence related to a case from his civilian practice. The army’s official rule is cited in Army JAG Publication 1-1, a handbook and telephone directory. It states, “Judges Advocates and civilian attorneys in the Judge Advocate Legal Service may not engage in the outside practice of law, or appear as counsel in civilian courts, tribunals, hearings or boards.” Bowman’s complaint asserts that the rule makes no distinction between active-duty and reservist JAGs and gives the army broad power to prevent the civilian practice of law by reservists. The Army Reserve office at the Pentagon said it could not comment on pending litigation or on the specifics of Bowman’s complaint. But it provided a copy of its most up-to-date policy, which limits the rule against civilian practice to reservists who are on active duty for more than 30 days. Bowman’s reprimand letter is now part of his official file and could prevent him from making the rank of colonel. He called the letter a “career-ending event” in his complaint and wants the army to review his administrative appeal. Bowman claims he first learned of the rule after John Brownlee, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, who was stationed in his unit, was released from active duty. Brownlee — who is also the son of the acting secretary of the Army (the defendant in Bowman’s lawsuit) — caused a flap after he showed up at a press conference in his Army uniform. The Army then released him from active duty, citing a conflict with its rule against the civilian practice of law. Kevin J. Barry, a retired Coast Guard captain and former military judge who practices military law in Chantilly, Va., said Bowman’s challenge to the rule presents a new ground and a lot of good questions. In the Brownlee case, Barry asserts that the U.S. attorney’s dual role presented no conflict. “There’s one sovereign, the United States,” said Barry. Barry has more sympathy for reservist JAGs in small practices, like Bowman, who are hardest hit when they are activated. A company or large firm can absorb a JAG’s absence, but for a solo practitioner, the transition can be ruinous. “Think about it. You’ve got a family and a full caseload when you get called up to go to Iraq,” Barry said. In December 2002, Bowman received a warning that his unit, the 2174th Garrison Support Unit, might be mobilized. Bowman claims that he stopped taking new cases and began wrapping up old ones. On Jan. 17, 2003, he received orders to report to Fort Eustis in five days. After eight months, Bowman was granted a release from active duty beginning on Aug. 30 because his civilian practice was suffering. Two weeks later, he used a government fax, at his own expense, to contact opposing counsel in a civilian case that he intended to resume. Bowman argues that his supervisors investigated and found that his actions were based on good faith and his use of the fax machine “insignificant.”

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