Friday, June 9, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Attorney Says ‘Vindictive’ Navy Purposely Sows Intimidation & Fear in Civilian Counsel

WASHINGTON (CN) - A civilian attorney claims his rights were violated when the Navy Judge Advocate General conducted "a sham 'ethics investigation'" and suspended him from JAG court proceedings for "vindictive" reasons. He calls it part of a pattern within JAG to "create an atmosphere of intimidation and fear, especially among civilian defense counsel," to pressure attorneys from giving clients competent legal advice.

Earle Partington, a Hawaii resident with 41 years of legal experience, sued the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and four members of the Navy JAG Corps: Vice Adm. James W. Houck, Capt. Robert A. Porzeinski, Capt. Robert B. Blazewick and Capt. C.N. Morin.

In his federal complaint, Partington says the conflict with JAG began in 2006 when he represented Stewart Toles in a Navy general court-martial for allegations of violating the "video voyeurism" statute.

Partington says Toles received a reduced sentence because the original charges contained a possible jurisdictional defect.

The charges should have been dismissed on appeal, since the offenses may not have occurred within "special maritime and territorial jurisdiction," Partington says, but he claims the government deliberately misconstrued the record, would not hear oral arguments and upheld the conviction and sentence.

Navy officials then criticized Partington's defense tactics as "unsavory" and launched an inquiry into his professional conduct, according to the complaint.

Partington says the investigation was purely "vindictive" and that he was never provided with a formal complaint or charge sheet.

"In essence, the NJAG's effort to silence Partington via a sham 'ethics investigation' is intended to, and most emphatically does create an atmosphere of intimidation and fear, especially among civilian defense counsel, who pursue a vigorous defense of their clients in court-martial proceedings," according to the complaint.

Partington says his due process was violated, and he was suspended from practicing law before the JAG court for 1 year.

JAG violated its own procedures in the investigation since Partington is not a member of the Navy and not subject to the military's disciplinary authority, according to the complaint.

Partington seeks damages and orders for declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that JAG lacked statutory authority to discipline him and violated his right to due process. He is represented by Katherine Van Dyck with Griffith Wheat.


Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.