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Military lawyers discuss gender issues at ABA Midyear

The military has made considerable recent progress on addressing gender discrimination and sexual harassment, and military lawyers play a major role in pushing that progress forward, a group of female military lawyers said at a roundtable discussion on gender issues in the military at the ABA’s Midyear Meeting.

Program participants (from upper left): Army Col. Jeri Hanes,  Navy Cmdr. Tracy Reynolds, Navy Cmdr. Janelle Kuroda and Army Col. Elizabeth Hernandez

Program participants (from upper left): Army Col. Jeri Hanes, Navy Cmdr. Tracy Reynolds, Navy Cmdr. Janelle Kuroda and Army Col. Elizabeth Hernandez

While considerable challenges remain, many of the issues are similar to those faced in the private sector, they said.  

“The issues are generally not unique to the military,” said Army Col. Jeri Hanes, staff judge advocate to the Army Military District of Washington. She says she has been struck in talking to friends practicing outside of the military at how familiar they are with the same issues.

The discussion, which took place Thursday, Feb. 10, was part of six days of programming at the Midyear Meeting that culminates Feb. 14 with a meeting of the House of Delegates, the ABA’s policy-making body.

The Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG Corps) within each military branch encompasses the military’s lawyers, who provide legal advice in a wide variety of areas, as well as serve as judges, prosecutors and defense counselors in courts-martial. 

With a mix of personal anecdotes and discussions of policy and procedures, the speakers related how JAGs deal with the legal – and non-legal – issues that arise around gender discrimination and sexual harassment within the military.  

“Overall, JAGs really do play an important role in this discussion of gender discrimination, whether it’s at the installation level when working with commanders or whether it’s in the more strategic approach,” said Col. Elizabeth Hernandez, chief of the Military Justice Law and Policy Division at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. “We’ve really had a lot of success.”

The hard work of equity needs to be done within the JAG Corps as well, they said. Commander Janelle Kuroda, deputy staff judge advocate at Navy Region Northwest Reserve Component Command in Everett, Wash., pointed to the Navy JAG Corps’ creation of a Standing Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion. It works to identify and address areas of inequality and to eliminate the effects of bias and discrimination “to ensure that everybody has opportunities to be successful,” she said.

JAGs have also been working to embed topics on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) into regular miliary training for enlisted personnel and the officers’ corps, said the speakers, as well as beefing up DEI-specific training.

 The discussion was sponsored by the ABA’s Standing Committee on Armed Forces Law (SCAFL), which last year created a subcommittee on gender in the armed services.

“Gender in the military – diversity in the military – is an issue for us all,” said moderator Navy Cmdr. Tracy Reynolds, a SCAFL member who is an active-duty JAG.

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