Bay Area Military Law Panel: Fighting Injustice Within the U.S. Military

Matthew Rinaldi
Executive Board Member

Our chapter has a long history of fighting the injustices which the U.S. military imposes upon the world. We also have a long history of fighting the injustices which the U.S. military imposes on its own rank and file.

The Bay Area Military Law Panel (BAMLP) works with the NLG’s Military Law Task Force and the GI Rights network to provide counseling and legal aid to service members. We have worked to assist those who seek to be discharged for medical and hardship reasons as well as those who have come to oppose U.S. wars. We have assisted LGBT service members seeking to defend their rights, soldiers who have faced separation from their children during deployment to combat areas and many service members who are victims of military sexual assault, so common it now is simply called MST. We have aided those with combat injuries including PTSD.

BAMLP currently runs a program to train law students to become counselors with the GI Rights network. Every semester for the past two years we have provided an initial training followed by legal supervision for students who become pro bono counselors. Law students, legal workers and attorneys are invited to attend.

We also continue to work to end the recruitment of child soldiers into the U.S. military. We believe that any 17-year-old who has enlisted should have the right, as a minor, to disaffirm that enlistment. Our method is a direct challenge to existing law. The process is as follows: The 17 year old signs a declaration disaffirming the enlistment contact; The parent or guardian signs a declaration withdrawing consent; These documents are presented to the military command.

Typically, the first response is that there is no legal procedure for disaffirming enlistment. We agree, and state a willingness to challenge 17-year-old enlistments in Federal Court. No military lawyer has yet been willing to risk a court case. Instead, every child soldier who has worked with us has been quickly discharged.

One of our law student trainees, Emily Gallagher, has developed a legal approach to allow us to challenge the right of the military to hold child soldiers against their will. You can find her article, Minority Enlistment: Barriers to Separation and Relief, in the current issue of our national newsletter, On Watch.

You can reach us through We welcome the participation of new members!