Center for Law says outdated policy affects veterans and active-duty service membersBy
David N. Young
Activist actress Alyssa Milano joined a powerful group of military legal scholars and former military prosecutors in Los Alamitos Saturday to express their collective support for a local non-profit organization seeking to reform what they consider to be obsolete military policies.
The mission of the Center for Law and Military Policy (CLMP) is to create legal policy solutions for troubling and lingering issues facing veterans and active-duty service members, said the nonprofit’s CEO Dwight Stirling.
Among the super-sized targets of the Center is a wholesale reform of the so-called Feres Doctrine, a comprehensive set of laws passed by Congress in the atmosphere of World War II that prohibits service members from seeking resolution of civil issues outside the military justice system. The CLMP hopes to tackle policy and legal issues to deal with homelessness, suicide, sexual harassment and others.
“I’m driven by patriotism,” said Stirling, a former military prosecutor who now teaches military law at the University of Southern California. “I feel a calling to help because so many are hurting,” he said. Veterans and active-duty soldiers “are the best of us and they give their best to us.” said Stirling.
The event Saturday night at Fiddler’s Green on the Joint Forces Training Base was, in essence, a coming out party for the Center for Law and Military Policy (CLMP). Stirling, who serves in the California National Guard, has been a Judges Advocate General (JAG) officer and a military prosecutor for more than two decades.
“We’ve seen their sacrifice,” said Stirling, yet when service members suffer sexual assault at the hands of an officer or fellow service member, “they have no access to a civil court.”
Several judges, other attorneys and a host of military officials attended the $150 per plate fundraiser to show support for proposed policy reforms.
Col. Robert C. McFertridge, a retired JAG officer and prosecutor, said he will serve as Vice-Chairman of the nonprofit’s board of directors, which includes a diverse selection of scholars, attorneys, veterans and military officials.
Stirling said the think tank would push policy reforms for veterans and active-duty service members affected issues like homelessness, suicide, and sexual assault.
Stirling, and other JAG officers present, say changing the doctrine will not in any way affect the operation of the military but only offer more legal equity to victims of crime who happened to be wearing a military uniform at the time of its commission.
Stirling said the group’s reforms are not aimed in any way at military operations per se, but simply designed to give soldiers the due process to which they should be legally entitled.
According to a Pentagon report, there were 6,769 reported cases of sexual assault in all services during 2017. The report indicated this is a 9.7 percent increase over 2016.
“I am here to actively support our veterans and those serving in our military,” said Milano, who recounted her now famous tweet that ignited the “me too” movement. Americans need
to stand up everywhere to “hold people accountable,” she said. “We are collectively saying NO MORE,” said Milano, who ran through a list of inequities. She said the problems go beyond sexual assault.
Nevertheless, Milano said she would lend her support to the Center for Law and Military Policy to change any “systematic culture of sexual assault.”
“I am happy to be your messenger,” she said.
Laura Riley, who teaches military law at USC Gould School of Law and a member of the CLMP board, thanked Milano for “shining her spotlight on issues that matter.”
Dallis Warshaw, an Orange County attorney, who is the group’s Vice President of Policy, presented an overview of how the think tank planned to accomplish their long-term goals while Marcia Marinovich, Director of Development, said their immediate goal was to “stop the hurting” of veterans and active-duty military service members.
Although many in the group are active at JFTB, Stirling said the main office for the CLMP will be located in Huntington Beach.
Photos by John Fitzpatrick