I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the
United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and
allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation
or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office
on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
My first memory of the Fourth of July is sitting on a blanket at Miller Outdoor Theater in Houston, Texas as a young girl. The Houston Symphony is playing patriotic music and my father who sang for the Houston Symphony is lighting one of the 21 cannons in salute to fallen servicemen and women who fought for our freedom. I knew I wanted to be free. I knew those who helped us be free are heroes. I did not know what it meant to be free, nor what the servicemen and women had endured in order to help us be free. I also did not know there were people in this country and around the world who were not free. Some people stood during portions of the musical salute. My mom told me those were the people who had served in the force that particular chorus honored. I watched as people would stand for a part of the song, and then sit down. Other people would then stand and sit down. I looked at those people, really looked at them as only a child will do. I saw the lines on their faces. I saw the strength in their stance. I saw peace. I did not yet know it was the peace of knowing that they had done their duty in life. I felt the music in my heart, and I felt their spirits in my soul. They were people with true hearts. I set the first intention of my life that night. One day, I too would serve my country and help people be free.
The summer between my second and third years of law school is when my time came. By now, I had learned all that school can teach us about the military and war, and of course, I had spent a little bit of time with the Constitution. I was in Corpus Christi working for a “big firm”. The people in the firm were nice, but the work was uninspiring. In law school, it was criminal law, the Constitution, and the work of Professor Dow for the Innocence project that I found inspiring. I thought I wanted to be a trial lawyer. I thought one did that by going to work for a big firm that tries cases, but then I saw that all of the lawyers were in the office, not in trial, and the younger lawyer were just sitting in the library researching legal issues. One of the paralegals invited me to hang out with her at a bar which seemed a nice break from sitting in the boardrooms and libraries keeping my legs crossed and my mouth shut. Turns out the bar was a hang-out for Navy pilots. Their job seemed pretty exciting. I told them I wanted to be a trial lawyer, but did not know how to get there. They told me that if I joined the Navy I would be in trial immediately. I was skeptical.
By this time, my views of society had begun to develop. Simply, I favored peace and opposed war, a pretty significant conflict to joining a military force. I researched the duties of Jag officers and learned that Jag officers provide opinions to military commanders about the legality of military action. I could begin my career as a trial lawyer with a view towards a position where I could advise the command about the illegality of war. I did not quite get there, but throughout my service I refused to carry a weapon, to attend training about weapons, or to seek ribbons that reflected weapons expertise.
Back to the story, when I returned to campus, the Navy was at t the career fair. I walked up to the recruiter and told him that I wanted to be a trial lawyer and that the Navy pilots told me I could try cases immediately if I joined the Navy. I must have seemed quite brash to the recruiter and quite naïve. The recruiter told me they were right. I would try my first case before I even had my bar results… if I was selected. Only a few people (A few good men.) would be selected this year. All right I said, “I want to apply.” Two people were selected from Houston that year – myself and another fellow from my law school. There are three law schools in Houston. The other two schools did not have any people selected.
I was appointed to the Judge Advocate General’s Corps of the United States Navy on December 10, 1990, and I took the oath of office on December 20, 1990. I swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic. This oath governed my actions from that day until today and will govern them until the day I pass. There is no greater duty that to seek to ensure the ideals of the Constitution are honored especially today as the people of this country are attacked by their government. It is this oppression that the oath seeks to prevent.
The Navy trains its people well. I tell prosecutors and judges all the time that if they have complaints about the extent to which I investigate a case and the intensity with which I litigate, they should complain to the U.S. Navy. I attended Officer Indoctrination for five weeks, and extensive trial training for nine weeks at the Naval Justice School in Newport, Rhode Island. I also spent 3 weeks on the USS Shenandoah through the Lawyer at Sea project which was intended to help the new lawyers get to know the clients. I dubbed the program “Lawyer at Pier” because the Shenandoah stayed docked the whole time. Despite the docking, the lesson of living on board, eating in the officer’s mess, and working side by side with a line officer was valuable. All of this was honorable useful training, but the most important training happened when I arrived at my command and was assigned my first cases. The daily conversations with my commanding officer made me the lawyer I am today. He told me to overturn every stone in an investigation and address every legal issue.
I served on active duty until June 1995. Following active duty, I served in the Reserves and represented military members in courts-martial and administrative proceedings as civilian counsel. I am inactive now, and currently holds the rank of Lieutenant Commander.
While on active duty, I served as a Criminal Defense Attorney and Legal Assistance Attorney, at the Navy Legal Service Office Detachment, Naval Construction Battalion Center, Gulfport, Mississippi. I served in this capacity from November 1991 to August 1993. She tried 24 court-martials and defended 17 individuals at administrative separation hearings. These cases included several high profile Tailhook cases, rape charges, drug offenses, and other offenses military specific cases. I was repeatedly called upon to handle serious matters due to her professionalism and trial skill. In regards to Tailhook, she successfully salvaged the career of one of the pilots responsible for organizing and directing the event. During this time, she was the sole attorney providing defense services to all Navy bases in Southern Mississippi as such she provided advice to 100’s of sailors. She received a Navy Achievement Medal for exceptional trial skill. She was a Finalist in Trial Advocacy Competition at Naval Justice School. In addition to the litigation, she provided legal assistance including will preparation and intervention in other legal disputes on behalf of sailors.
From September 1993 until June 1995, Daphne L. Pattison served as Staff Judge Advocate for the Naval Construction Battalion Center. In this capacity, she advised installation commander and tenant commanders on a variety of legal issues including military justice, environmental law, government standards of conduct, labor law, and the Freedom of Information Act. In addition, she wrote a monthly Ask the Lawyer column for base newspaper addressing legal issues relevant to the lives of service members. This position allowed her the opportunity to gain incite into the operation of a military command and the process of deciding how to dispose of criminal charges, a valuable tool in representing military members as civilian counsel.
While serving as the base attorney, I accepted the collateral duty of Special Assistant to the United States attorney. My job for the USA was to prosecute misdemeanor and felony violations of the United States Code occurring on board Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport and John C. Stennis Space Center. I was supervised by the Criminal Chief at the United States Attorney’s office. This put me on the other side of the table for a couple of years and allowed me to delve into the visions, goals and mechanics of prosecution. I used the tool of prosecution as infrequently as possible and when I did so, I thought it very important that all people should be treated equally. As an example, I believed the law prohibiting visitors bringing weapons on base was important to preserve the safety of the military personnel and family members living and working on base. I prosecuted people who violated this rule including a white male attorney who claimed he did not know the rule and could not read the sign at the gate. He sought to be treated differently. I sought to treat him equally. Despite his best efforts to force me to dismiss the charges, we tried that case. The Judge gave me a lesson in what white males attorneys do for each other and found the lawyer not guilty. This young lieutenant slammed her case binder shut in disgust at the Judge’s verdict reflecting clear favoritism while the base investigator dragged the lieutenant out of the court to avoid her arrest. The sign at the gate is much bigger now.
After my active duty time, I served in the Reserves. My first duty station was as a Legal Assistance Attorney for the Naval Legal Service Office New Orleans Reserve Unit. Just like my first couple of years on active duty, I provided legal assistance including will preparation and intervention in other legal disputes on behalf of sailors. My next duty station was on the staff of the Staff Judge Advocate for Strategic Command in Omaha, Nebraska. Strategic Command is responsible for developing the visions of military strategy. At strat com, performed the Judge Advocate General review of investigations into possible security breaches, giving her a background which is helpful in defending those accused of security breaches or other related matters. I was determined eligible for Sensitive Compartmented Information and DCID 6/4 which includes the simultaneous granting of Top Secret collateral clearance.
Through my military service, I learned military laws, the structural framework of the military, and the systems of criminal charges. Most importantly, I solidified my value system. I vowed to always seek to support and defend the ideals of the United States Constitution against all enemies even if the enemy was the government itself.