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Law and order: Legal office assists with base needs

Capt. Eric McCutchen, Buckley Legal Office chief of military justice, flips through the Manual for Courts-Martial United States Aug. 21, 2013, at the legal office on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. The legal office handled four courts-martial cases and five discharge boards last year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau/Released)

Capt. Eric McCutchen, Buckley Legal Office chief of military justice, flips through the Manual for Courts-Martial United States Aug. 21, 2013, at the legal office on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. The legal office handled four courts-martial cases and five discharge boards last year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau/Released)

Connie Thomas, Buckley Legal Office legal assistant, assists a customer at the reception desk of the Buckley Legal Office Aug. 21, 2013, at the legal office on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. The legal office has seven unique base support functions such as military justice, legal assistance and adverse actions, as well as environmental, contract, labor and civil law. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau/Released)

Connie Thomas, Buckley Legal Office legal assistant, assists a customer at the reception desk of the Buckley Legal Office Aug. 21, 2013, at the legal office on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. The legal office has seven unique base support functions such as military justice, legal assistance and adverse actions, as well as environmental, contract, labor and civil law. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau/Released)

Maj. Hanna Yang, Buckley Legal Office deputy staff judge advocate, left, oversees a direct examination by Capt. Eric McCutchen, Buckley Legal Office chief of military justice, of Senior Airman Jose Sanchez, Buckley Legal Office paralegal, center, during training Aug. 21, 2013, at the legal office on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. The legal office handled four courts-martial cases and five discharge boards last year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau/Released)

Maj. Hanna Yang, Buckley Legal Office deputy staff judge advocate, left, oversees a direct examination by Capt. Eric McCutchen, Buckley Legal Office chief of military justice, of Senior Airman Jose Sanchez, Buckley Legal Office paralegal, center, during training Aug. 21, 2013, at the legal office on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. The legal office handled four courts-martial cases and five discharge boards last year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau/Released)

Capt. Eric McCutchen, Buckley Legal Office chief of military justice, left, goes over a potential case with Senior Airman Jose Sanchez, Buckley Legal Office paralegal, Aug. 21, 2013, at the legal office on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. The legal office handled four courts-martial cases and five discharge boards last year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau/Released)

Capt. Eric McCutchen, Buckley Legal Office chief of military justice, left, goes over a potential case with Senior Airman Jose Sanchez, Buckley Legal Office paralegal, Aug. 21, 2013, at the legal office on Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. The legal office handled four courts-martial cases and five discharge boards last year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau/Released)

A judge’s gavel rests Aug. 21, 2013, in the legal office at Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. The gavel’s banging symbolizes the start of proceedings, a needed recess or to bring order to the court. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau/Released)

A judge’s gavel rests Aug. 21, 2013, in the legal office at Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. The gavel’s banging symbolizes the start of proceedings, a needed recess or to bring order to the court. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau/Released)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Pop culture depicts military justice as a uniformed member in a courtroom grilling a witness who shouts back, "You can't handle the truth." In reality; however, the Buckley Legal Office does so much more.

The legal office, also referred to as the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, handles seven unique functions that support the base. These include military justice, legal assistance and adverse actions, as well as environmental, contract, labor and civil law.

Legal assistance is one of the core functions of the legal office. In fact, the office handles more than 4,300 cases and clients each year.

"We are a very busy legal office and most of our clients are retirees and spouses," said Connie Thomas, Buckley Legal Office legal assistant. "In addition to our clients, we get about 200 to 300 phone calls a week."

With the number of cases and clients breaking 4,000, the legal office has revamped its legal assistance hours.

The new legal assistance schedule is designed to more effectively serve their clients and the mission, stated Maj. Hanna Yang, Buckley Legal Office deputy staff judge advocate. On Tuesday afternoons clients can now see an attorney, get their wills drafted, notarized and executed -- all in one day.

For all non-will matters, clients can consult with a lawyer on an appointment basis Wednesday afternoons. On Thursdays, Airmen and their dependents can walk-in between 12:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. This captures many members' lunch time and frees up Airmen to take care of legal matters during non-duty hours, Yang added.

The legal office is more than a place of dry professionalism; the members really try to help their customers in a confidential environment.

"Even if we can't help someone, we still try to give them general legal advice depending on what they are going through," said Senior Airman Jose Sanchez, Buckley Legal Office paralegal. "Because when you are getting ready to deploy or having stresses at work, those (issues) can take your mind of the ultimate goal which is being ready for the mission."

While the legal office helps customers each day its doors are opened, the Judge Advocate General Corps was originally founded to spearhead military justice issues.

"When somebody violates the Uniform Code of Military Justice, we are the ones who coordinate with the command about moving forward with an Article 15 or a court-martial," said Capt Eric McCutchen, Buckley Legal Office chief of military justice. "We work very closely with the Office of Special Investigations and Security Forces Investigations, because what they are investigating often times end up with an Article 15 or a court-martial."

In the courtroom, the JAG Corps still takes cases to court against the Area Defense Counsel to determine the truth.

"Ultimately, you just want the right thing to happen," the captain explained. "We have this adversarial system that sometimes makes for (unexpected) results, but you hope that out of the system, the right thing happens."

With such an integral part of base operations flowing through the legal office, it is one of the few organizations to influence the final say in how operations are run.

"We have a function that does a legal review of every support agreement with a tenant unit and off base organization," Capt McCutchen added. "We have to review private organizations, such as booster clubs, spouses' groups and the Top 3, constitutions and bylaws, when they are created, as well as the actions they take in the course of their business."

As seven functions move like clockwork in a small office of both military and civilian Airmen, the Buckley Legal Office functions toward a single goal.

"We want to make sure that everybody understands their rights not only on the battlefield, but also your rights as a member of the Air Force," Sanchez said.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact the Buckley Legal Office at 720-847-6444. To view the legal office's website and revised legal assistance hours, click here.
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