All officers seeking to become a part of the Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps must attend the Naval Justice School. When it was originally established in 1946, it was divided into four teaching departments—Evidence, Procedure, Substantive Law, and Research and Practical Law—with a basic curriculum revolving around three principal academic subjects: Evidence, Procedure, and Substantive Law.
Two distinct courses based upon that basic curriculum were available for Officers that, if they were attending the school today, would be entering the Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps. The basic texts for the two courses, one for lawyers and another for non-lawyers, were the 1951edition of Manual for Courts-Martial and the Manual of the Judge Advocate General. Study guides based on the interpretation of law by bodies such as the United States Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Military Appeals, and the Judge Advocates General of the Armed Forces (English) were also provided to students.
The course for non-lawyers focused on the training of counsel (both trial and defense) and legal officers of small commands. Taught primarily through classroom lectures and discussions, this course also featured workshops in which the students took on the roles of parties involved in moot special courts-martial.
Officers studying to be “Law Specialists” were taught how to serve as counsel in general and special courts-martial, as well as how carry out a host of other legal duties they would likely face during their first permanent assignment. Similar to the training for non-lawyers, this course featured moot courts-martials that gave students the opportunity to employ the procedures and techniques they’d learned in the classroom.
Today, officers seeking to serve as judge advocates in the JAG Corps (or as judge advocates in the Marine Corps or Coast Guard) must complete the 10-week Basic Lawyer School at the Naval Justice School in Newport, Rhode Island. Here, the officers—all of whom have already earned their law degree, passed a bar exam, and have finished Officer Development School—are immersed in the basics of military justice and associated civil law, with a special emphasis on enhancing their skills in trial advocacy. The Legal Officer and the Senior Officer courses are available for officers who haven’t earned their Juris Doctor degree and passed their bar exam.
The Naval Justice School is also the site where Sailors in the Legalman rating (LN) receive their training.