Penalties Upheld for Disgraced JAG Attorney
WASHINGTON (CN) - It was proper to indefinitely suspend a lawyer for The Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Army whose affair got him court-martialed, a federal judge ruled.
Stephen Spelman found himself in hot water with the military after pleading guilty in a 2012 general court-martial to carrying on an extramarital affair with a subordinate officer-attorney while stationed in Iraq in 2008 and 2009.
Spelman, who joined the JAG Corps in 2000, was sentenced to 60 days confinement and forfeiture of $4,000 of pay per month for five months.
The Massachusetts resident opted to join the Retired Reserve instead of leaving the Army after his sentence was executed, and he learned in 2013 that the JAG Professional Responsibility Branch intended to impose additional disciplinary actions against him.
TJAG, as The Judge Advocate General is abbreviated, ultimately withdrew Spelman's certification and indefinitely suspended him from practicing before Army courts.
Spelman immediately sued Army Secretary John McHugh, but U.S. District Judge Richard Leon granted the motion Friday to dismiss that challenge.
"Plaintiff's disciplinary procedure comports with Army regulations, and thus his claim must fail," Leon's 17-page decision states.
Spelman argued that his decision to join the Retired Reserve brought the additional disciplinary actions outside of the statutory authority of the Army, but Leon said the Retired Reserve does indeed fall under the umbrella of the department.
"It strains credulity for plaintiff to now argue that he is no longer subject to the authority of TJAG - the officer tasked by Congress with directing Judge Advocates in the performance of their duties," Leon wrote.The judge also dismissed claims that Spelman was not afforded due process and that TJAG failed to comply with Army regulations.