President Lyndon B. Johnson established the office in 1967 as an upgrade to a two-decade-old law specialist program, which granted line officers permission to perform legal services. With the creation of the Navy JAG Corps, Navy lawyers were given professional distinction within the Navy, similar to the status afforded physicians and chaplains.
More than 730 attorneys today are deemed judge advocates, and there are 630 enlisted sailors, nearly 275 civilian personnel and 30 limited duty officers who round out the rest of the Navy JAG Corps. Only commissioned officers from the rank of junior lieutenant through rear admiral can serve as judge advocates, and they are stationed across the country, internationally and aboard ships. Their duties include serving as prosecutors, defense attorneys or presiding judges in criminal trials at courts-martial and serving as legal counsel for appeals of courts-martial.
The Navy JAG Corps is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and eight regional offices provide legal assistance to active-duty Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard service members and their families, reservists who have served actively within 30 days and retirees.