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Tell It To The Judge

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One of the things that makes Starbase 118 so unique is not only the wonderful people here, but also its government.  Today, I had the opportunity to learn a bit more about one office in particular – the JAG, or Judge Advocate General, office.  Here with me is Fleet Captain Idril Mar who holds that position.

DeVeau: Thank you for allowing me to pick your brain.

Mar: ::The red-haired Trill woman nodded politely, crossing her legs and leaning back in the chair.:: My pleasure.

DeVeau: First, let’s get to know a little bit about you. How long have you been with SB118?

::The flag officer thought for a moment.::

Mar: I believe that, if my memory doesn’t fail me, that it has been 12 years as of October.

DeVeau: How did you find SB118 and what drew you to join?

::Idril chuckled at the memory of sitting in the graduate student computer lab, what seemed like an age and a lifetime ago.::

Mar: That’s a funny story actually. I was looking for a physical model of the Akira-class battlecruiser, one I would later find on federationmodels.com, and stumbled onto the Ronin, then the main Starbase 118 website. I was then as I am now a Star Trek fan, and here was this new way to role play as well. I read through some of the USS Freedom’s missions, then applied.

DeVeau: Please tell us a little bit about the characters you’ve played over the years. Do you have a favourite?

Mar: ::The Trill spread out her hands.:: For the most part, what you see is what you get. With very few exceptions, Idril’s always been who I played. I have a couple of personal NPCs, including Josh King, a irasable old Master Chief Petty Officer in Engineering who I stole as a jaygee from Lt. Horne Makra, the then-Chief Engineer aboard the Independence, and Tess, the AI on the Achilles who acts like a teenager but is the heart a soul of one of the most powerful battlecruisers in the fleet. It may be funny, but I always come back to my favorite Trill.

DeVeau: Tell us a little bit more about her.

Mar: ::She nodded.:: As a character, she has changed immensely. She’s always been a tomboy, but has gone from very impulsive to thoughtful. Since I started, she has dated, had an affair, been married, separated then has gotten back together and is currently relaxing into a stable desk job command position.

DeVeau: Along with changes in character, you’ve experience changes in rank and responsibility such as fulfilling the role of our JAG officer.  Now I will admit, I had heard the term but was not familiar with the office until recently.  For those who aren’t aware, would you be willing to describe the duties of a JAG officer?

Mar: ::Her face got serious. Here was something that she took very much to heart and it related to her real-life career as well.:: The JAG position is something I’ve held for about four years, before there really was a JAG Office per say. The JAG role is something I take very seriously. JAG stands for Judge Advocate General, essentially a term for a military lawyer. While some members look to me for interpretation of the Constitution, and I’m fine with that role, the main role of the JAG office in the Starbase 118 group is the administration of the member appeal system. Myself and Captain Avatar, my Deputy JAG Officer, administer the appeals process for officers that feel they have been disciplined by their ship’s CO in an unfair manner. While others see it differently, I see it as an opportunity to insert a healthy amount of fairness into a system that gives the COs of each vessel a lot of discretion in what they do with their crews. It isn’t that I think in general our COs are unfair or capricious, but there are situations that can be handled better from time to time.

DeVeau: Could you describe the procedures you would go through should someone come to you and your Deputy with an appeal?

Mar: ::Idril nodded.:: Certainly. From time to time, COs discipline their ship members from time to time; it is a simple fact of being in command. When that happens, that officer files a form that in turn generates an official notice of discipline to the member. That notice details the opportunity to appeal the commanding officer’s decision.

DeVeau: What happens if that officer appeals the disciplinary action?

Mar: ::Nodding matter-of-factly, the older woman continued.:: Well, the disciplined officer has the opportunity to build a case against the discipline, either than the discipline itself was incorrect or the punishment was not fair, and have their evidence heard by a tribunal of their peers: other members of the fleet selected at random, much like a jury for a real life court case. This tribunal will read the materials submitted by the disciplined officer and the commanding officer, as well as rebuttals to each officer’s materials by the other, and vote on the appropriateness of the discipline itself and the punishment selected. This becomes a non-binding recommendation to the Captains Council, the final arbiter of the appeal.

DeVeau: What happens once the Council receives the recommendation?

Mar: The Council has a certain amount of time to discuss the recommendation and, assuming that no one raises any objections, the tribunal’s recommendation stands. If there is a disagreement, the CC, as the arbiter of appeals, then debates and votes on the merits of the case themselves.

DeVeau: Is this sort of measure necessary often or is it a fairly rare occurrence?

Mar: ::Idril shook her head.:: I’d say that right now it is pretty rare, due in large part to our very evenhanded Command corps. When someone gets disciplined, they generally have been warned several times and know that it is coming. If it were to become more common, especially if there were repeated appeals against a specific Captain, especially if they were being overturned consistently, I would think that would be something that the Fleet Staff would likely look into as well in terms of coaching.

DeVeau: Well, I for one am grateful for such a well thought out and well established process.  Thank you for your time – I’ve learned a lot!

Mar: You are more than welcome. Any time.