JACKSON, MS, UNITED STATES
JACKSON, Miss. – The Mississippi National Guard appointed its first permanent military judge at the state Capitol Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016.
Col. Lee Thaggard was sworn in by Judge Virginia Carlton, District 4 Mississippi Court of Appeals and a former lieutenant colonel in the Mississippi Army National Guard, during the investiture ceremony.
“I’m honored and humbled to be selected to represent the National Guard in this capacity as a military trial judge,” Thaggard said. “I’ll do that with professionalism, integrity, and fairness and apply the law to the facts as they are presented to me.”
Similar to a civilian judge, a military judge presides over the courtroom and determines sentences for service members accused of a crime under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice. They cannot preside over civilian proceedings or service members who commit crimes while not in service.
Mississippi has had military judges appointed in the past for brief periods or to preside over a particular case, but Thaggard is the first appointed to the position permanently.
“We have not had a military judge in Mississippi in 35 years,” said Leslie Southwick, a Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals judge and a former lieutenant colonel in the Mississippi Army National Guard, in his remarks during the ceremony. “I am confident our new judge is setting the right tone. There are going to be very important things for you to do. Welcome to the judiciary.”
Southwick said Thaggard’s integrity, military experience, and sound judgment set him apart.
The investiture ceremony was a custom of the court, Carlton said. It includes the swearing of the oath and the donning of the judge’s robe. The robe is evidence of his authority and a symbol of impartiality.
Col. E. Barney Robinson III, the state judge advocate, said a military judge provides service members with judicial independence and impartiality. Certain types of court-martials can only be adjudicated by a military judge, which is separate from the military command structure and therefore cannot be influenced in their decisions.
“Not every state has a judge of this level,” said Maj. Gen. Janson Boyles, the adjutant general of Mississippi. “It provides a level of impartial governance for our Soldiers as well as Soldiers that come through Camp Shelby. I’ve worked with (Thaggard) and he has always been an excellent JAG officer. I will miss having him by my side.”
Thaggard is a graduate of the 59th Military Judge Course at the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School in Charlottesville, Va. He is certified as a military judge by the Judge Advocate General of the Army.
His career did not start in the courtroom, however.
Thaggard joined the MSARNG as a cadet in the 2d Battalion, 114th Field Artillery Regiment in Starkville. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant, field artillery, in May 1987 through the Reserve Officer Training Corps at Mississippi State University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Professional Accountancy.
He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 185th Aviation Regiment, in Tupelo after graduation. He served in aviation leadership positions from platoon leader to company commander and, later, as the battalion intelligence officer.
He earned a Juris Doctor cum laude from the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1992 and was appointed as a major in the JAG Corps in 2003. Since then, he has served as trial counsel for the 114th Area Support Group; judge advocate for the 184th Transportation Brigade; brigade judge advocate for the 185th Aviation Brigade; command judge advocate for Special Operations Detachment – South; and command judge advocate for the 184th Sustainment Command.
His overseas experience includes service as the chief of military justice for the 377th Theater Support Command (Provisional) in Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and as the command judge advocate for the Afghan National Army Special Operations Advisory Group in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
His personal awards include the Bronze Star Medal; Meritorious Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster; the Afghanistan Service Medal with one campaign star; and the Meritorious Unit Commendation; among others. He has also earned the Senior Army Aviator Badge; Parachutist Badge; Air Assault Badge; and the Chilean Parachutist Badge.
He is a partner in the law firm of Barry, Thaggard, May, and Bailey, LLP in Meridian, where he has a general civil practice with emphasis on governmental law, insurance defense, and employment law.
||JACKSON, MS, US
||JACKSON, MS, US
||MADDEN, MS, US
||MERIDIAN, MS, US
This work, Mississippi names first military judge, by SSG Scott Tynes, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.