Experienced Lawyers Practicing Military Law

Military law is the term used to designate the body of case law, statutes, and regulations governing military personnel. Two of our three lawyers are experienced, certified judge advocates (military lawyers) authorized to practice in all military jurisdictions worldwide. Both served on active duty as prosecutors and both served as Reservists either as a trial or appellate military judge. We are thoroughly familiar with the military justice and administrative systems. Our firm handles military cases at the trial level, on appeal, and in administrative matters (but not discharge upgrades).

Trials

We represent clients at all phases of the military justice system. We have experience representing clients at general courts-martial (felony courts), special courts-martial (misdemeanor courts), and summary courts-martial (a unique military court), as well as preliminary hearings under Article 32, Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

Servicemembers being tried by court-martial are entitled to an assigned military counsel provided without charge by the service (called “detailed counsel”). However, they also may hire civilian counsel at their own expense. Our lawyers are experienced in representing servicemembers from the very beginning of their cases. We conduct a thorough investigation of the facts and the applicable law, which helps us negotiate with the command to prevent charges, or get charges dismissed or reduced. If the case proceeds to trial, we are prepared to take on the Government at every turn. We represent enlisted and officer members at courts-martial around the globe.

Appeals

If there is a conviction and the convening authority approves a sentence that includes a punitive discharge (bad conduct discharge, dishonorable discharge, or dismissal), or two years or more of confinement, servicemembers get an appeal as a matter of right. Their case files are sent to the appropriate service court of criminal appeals: the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals (AFCCA), Army Court of Criminal Appeals (ACCA), Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals (CGCCA), or Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals (NMCCA). After the service court decides the case, the losing party may petition the highest military court, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) (formerly the Court of Military Appeals, or COMA) for a discretionary review.

Servicemembers are entitled to a free military appellate defense counsel who will be assigned to the appeal, but may hire civilian counsel if they so choose. Our lawyers have extensive experience researching and preparing the written briefs submitted to the Courts, as well as orally arguing cases at all of these appellate courts.

Administrative Matters

Sometimes when servicemembers are accused of misconduct, the military attempts to “fire” them by involuntarily administratively separating them (officers are processed this way at Boards of Inquiry (BOIs)). In some situations, this is done just by submitting paperwork. However, under many circumstances, including when the servicemember has enough years of service or where the command attempts to separate the servicemember with an Other than Honorable Discharge, a hearing may be required. Our lawyers are experienced in handling these contested administrative separation hearings and do everything they can to get a favorable result. This could be retention in the service or a more favorable characterization of service than the command seeks.

We also handle other administrative matters such as medical separation processing, promotion and non-selection for promotion issues, security clearance matters, and fitness report/performance evaluation appeals. We do NOT handle matters pertaining to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or discharge upgrades.

Our Military Lawyers

Jack Zimmermann and Terri Zimmermann gained extensive experience as military counsel while on active and reserve duty, and they have been retained as civilian counsel in numerous courts-martial, appeals, and other military cases around the world.

Jack B. Zimmermann is a former prosecutor, defense counsel, and general court-martial (felony) trial judge in the United States Marine Corps. Mr. Zimmermann served for 14 years on active duty, including duty as the commanding officer of two artillery batteries in combat, where he earned two Bronze Star medals for heroism and the Purple Heart for wounds in action. He served for 16 years as an officer in the Marine Corps Reserve, including duty as the commanding officer of the infantry battalion headquartered in Houston. He retired in 1994 as a colonel, and was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for his final assignment as a felony court-martial judge.

Jack Zimmermann served as lead counsel in many significant military cases. For example:

  • The “Border Shooting Case” where two state grand juries and one federal grand jury refused to indict the active-duty Marine who returned fire, killing the man who fired on his patrol.
  • In defense of a Marine aviator charged with twenty-seven specifications of orders violations. All charges were dismissed after the Article 32 hearing.
  • For the Marine who was charged with negligent homicide for the death of an Iraqi prisoner; all charges were dismissed after a six day Article 32 hearing.
  • In the court-martial of an Army surgeon, who was cleared of 19 specifications of distribution of controlled substances, obstruction of justice, false official statement, and orders violations. The military jury deliberated for 45 minutes.
  • For an Army Special Forces officer, who was acquitted of rape and indecent acts.
  • Representing LCpl Stephen Tatum, USMC, who originally was charged with the murder of Iraqi civilians during a counter-attack in response to an ambush in Haditha, Iraq. Click here for a description of the Article 32 Investigation hearing featured in the Texas Lawyer magazine. All charges were dismissed with prejudice on the first day of trial in this case that had drawn international media attention.
  • Representing at trial and on appeal of an Army officer charged with premeditated murder of an enemy insurgent in Iraq which carries an automatic life sentence. The officer was convicted of the lesser offense of unpremeditated murder and served five years.
  • Representing a Marine officer who was acquitted of all charges and specifications of sexual assault and conduct unbecoming an officer.
  • Representing an Airman convicted of attempted premeditated murder; Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces reversed, finding Constitutional error and remanding for further proceedings. On remand, the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals reduced the original 18-year sentence to seven years.

Terri R. Zimmermann is a former active duty prosecutor and chief of the Civil Law and Review sections at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, California. Ms. Zimmermann is a Colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve, who for approximately ten years served as an appellate defense counsel in Washington, D.C. She has served as a military appellate judge on the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals, as the Reserve counterpart to the Chief Defense Counsel of the Marine Corps (responsible for training and mentoring all active duty and Reserve defense counsel in the Marine Corps), and as the Trial Services Branch Head (responsible for training and mentoring all active duty and Reserve prosecutors in the Marine Corps). She is still active in the Marine Corps Reserve. 

In addition to serving as co-counsel with Jack Zimmermann on several of the high-profile military cases described above, Ms. Zimmermann has served as lead counsel in the defense of many military clients.  For example, she has successfully represented servicemembers at the following stages of their cases:

Investigations:

  • An Army officer under investigation for sexual assault; no charges resulted.
  • A Navy Senior Chief under investigation for larceny, wrongful disposition of government property, and violation of ethical rules; no charges resulted.
  • An enlisted Marine who was arrested for being in an unauthorized absence status; no charges resulted.

Trials:

  • An Army soldier accused of raping his ex-wife; charges dismissed after the military judge granted a motion to suppress the most important piece of Government evidence.
  • An Air Force member convicted of multiple offenses at trial; after getting his conviction reversed on appeal at the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, she prepared to retry the case. The Air Force dismissed the case before trial.
  • An Air Force officer charged with rape; the military judge granted the motion to dismiss, but the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces then reversed the lower court and dismissed the charge.
  • An Air Force officer convicted of sexual assault; after getting his conviction reversed on appeal at the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals, she prepared to retry the case. The Air Force dismissed the case after the Article 32, UCMJ preliminary hearing.

Appeals:

  • An Air Force officer convicted of rape; the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the conviction but the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces reversed the lower court and dismissed the charge.
  • An Air Force officer convicted of assault and sentenced to a dismissal from the Air Force; after the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals found error and ordered new post-trial processing, the convening authority approved a sentence without a dismissal.
  • An Air Force officer convicted of sexual assault; the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals found the evidence factually insufficient and dismissed the charge.

Significant Cases

Below you will find real examples of our lawyers making a difference in people's lives. We have fought at trial, on appeal, or in a writ of habeas corpus for each individual or organization listed, among many others. Each case is different, and we cannot predict or guarantee a result in any particular case. However, below are examples of some of the most difficult cases we have handled:

  • Petition for relief granted, overturning airman's discharge and reinstating her to active duty (Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records, Washington, D.C.)
  • U.S. v. Clemente Banuelos, cleared by military investigation of murder and civil rights violation (Camp Pendleton, California)
  • Court-martial, rape charge dismissed at trial after motion to suppress granted (Ft. Hood, Texas)
  • Court-martial, acquitted at re-trial of rape (Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi, Texas)
  • Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, attempted premeditated murder conviction reversed on appeal (Kadena Air Force Base, Okinawa, Japan;)
  • Court-martial, twenty-seven specifications of criminal charges dismissed after Article 32 preliminary hearing (Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi, Texas)
  • Court-martial, homicide of Iraqi prisoner charge dismissed after 6 day Article 32 preliminary hearing (Camp Pendleton, California)
  • Court-martial, acquitted at trial of violating a direct order, dereliction of duty, and false official statements (Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, California)
  • Court-martial, twelve specifications of distribution of controlled substances, false statement, and obstruction of justice dismissed on first day of trial, acquitted of four specifications of violating a direct order, dereliction of duty, and conduct unbecoming an officer (Fort Polk, Louisiana)
  • Court-martial, acquitted of rape and indecent acts (Fort Polk, Louisiana)
  • Court-martial, U.S. v. LCpl Stephen Tatum, originally charged with murder of Iraqi civilians, withdrawn after 8-day Article 32 hearing; four specifications of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon, and reckless endangerment, dismissed with prejudice on first day of trial (Camp Pendleton, California)
  • Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, carnal knowledge and sodomy with a child convictions reversed on appeal for unlawful command influence, charges dismissed on retrial (Hill Air Force Base, Utah)
  • Application for relief granted, overturning demotion of senior Staff Noncommissioned Officer in Texas Air National Guard and restoring retirement pay at his highest rank (Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records, Washington, D.C.)
  • Investigation of Army officer for allegation of rape, no charges filed (Fort Hood, Texas)
  • Court-martial, acquitted at trial of all charges and specifications of sexual assault and conduct unbecoming an officer (Marine Forces Reserve, New Orleans, Louisiana)
  • Discharge upgraded from "under other than honorable conditions" to "uncharacterized" (Naval Discharge Review Board)
  • Discharge upgraded from "under other than honorable conditions" to "general, under honorable conditions" (Naval Discharge Review Board)
  • Court-martial, sexual assault charges not referred to trial after Article 32, UCMJ pretrial hearing/investigation (Joint Base Andrews, Maryland)
  • Court-martial, preliminary hearing officer determined no probable cause; still referred to court, military judge dismissed rape charge with prejudice based on constitutional speedy trial violation (Hill Air Force Base, Utah)
  • Guilty findings with respect to sexual assault charge set aside based on factual insufficiency appellate acquittal (Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals)
  • Guilty findings with respect to sexual assault charge set aside based on legal error at trial (Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals)

For further information about the criminal trial and appellate attorneys at Zimmermann Lavine & Zimmermann, P.C. please contact us today. For immediate assistance call us in Houston, Texas at 713-552-0300.