Why hire a civilian attorney for a military court-martial trial?
Experience: Any civilian lawyer with 20 plus years of criminal defense experience will dwarf any military prosecutor or defense lawyer in terms of experience. Years of trial experience and skill are the most important factors when hiring a civilian lawyer. Twenty years versus five years in the courtroom is a big difference.
Not subject to the chain of command: A civilian defense lawyer is not subject to the chain of command, the SJA, or the Department of Defense. If the civilian defense lawyer is still in the military (Reserve or Guard), then they may not be 100% free of the chain of command. Being free from the command allows a civilian lawyer to fight the Government without fear or burning bridges or making enemies.
Rank matters: The Military Judge, the Command, and the jury always outrank the accused. In the military, rank matters. Free military defense lawyers are often pushed around by the command, the SJA, the Chief of Military Justice, and the Judge. An aggressive military defense lawyer who’s not subject to rank is critical to a winning defense.
No turnover of counsel: It is common for appointed military defense lawyers to leave the military or transfer to another duty station while they are representing a service member. If this happens, a new lawyer will be assigned and will literally be starting from scratch as your lawyer.