Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Righteous Calling To The Legal Profession.

A Righteous Calling To The Legal Profession. It was a miracle that I became a lawyer. The odds were against me. I was born and raised in Millington, Tennessee, a small segregated town about 50 miles north of Memphis. At the age of 5 I was enrolled in the E. A. Harrold Elementary School. After completing the 8th grade I was transferred to Woodstock High School in Memphis, Tennessee. It was an all Black school. In 1964 I graduated valedictorian in a class of 98 students. I was one of the first 2 Kennedy Cadets to attend the United States Coast Guard Academy, New London, Connecticut. A Presidential Executive Order issued by President Truman had desegregated the armed forces in 1948, but the service academies were lagging in officer recruiting. President John F. Kennedy specifically challenged the United States Coast Guard Academy to tender appointments to Black high school students after noticing that the contingent marching in his Inaugaral Parade was all white. I was one of the Black student to be offered such an appointment. On June 4, 1968 I graduated from the Coast Guard Academy with a Bachelor's of Science (BS) Degree in Engineering and a commission as an ensign in the U.S. Coast Guard. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life other than travel around the world as a Coast Guard officer. My first duty assignment out of the Academy was in Antarctic research logistical support. In July 1968 I reported aboard the U S Coast Guard Cutter Glacier (WAGB-4), an icebreaker operating under the control of the U.S. Navy. I served as a deck watch officer and head of the Marine Science Department. I traveled to Antarctica during two Operation Deep-Freeze Patrols from 1968 to 1969. Our mission was to support the research operations of the National Science Foundation's Antarctic Research Project in and around McMurdo Station. My second military assignment was from 1970 to 1972 in Juneau, Alaska as a Search and Rescue Officer in the Operations Center of the 17th Coast Guard District Commander. Before being certified as an Operations Duty Officer, it was necessary to become thoroughly familiar with the geography and topography of the Alaskan remote sites. Along with my office mate, LTJG Herbert Claiborne "Bertie" Pell, the son of Rhode Island Senator Claiborne Pell, I was sent on a familiarization tour of Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force bases. The bases visited were Base Kodiak, Base Adak Island, and Attu Island, in the Aleutian Islands. The two years in Alaska were mainly spent playing basketball, hunting, and fishing when not on duty in the Operations Center. I lived alone in Alaska and spent a lot of time reading the Bible. There were only two black and white television stations available, so I did not watch much television. One program that I watched religiously was "It Is Written", a show narrated by George Vanderman. I sent in a request for a Bible Course and a free Bible. The Bible was delivered by the pastor of the local Seventh Day Adventist Church, who came to visit me every week thereafter for a Bible study session. It was during this period that I began to feel a closer more person relationship to God. One night I had a vision. When I awakened I was positive I had heard the voice of God. It had spoken to me in a clear, cogent, and convincing tone. It said "Be a lawyer". I had never even considered becoming a lawyer before that. I thought that my chances of becoming a lawyer were pretty slim. I was only an average student in college and I had not been an avid reader since college. I did not think I would do very well on a Law School Admission's Test. If I were to become a lawyer, it would be a miracle. I was about to find out that God works miracles, but not magic. The very next day when I reported for work, I sent a message to Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington, DC requesting re-assignment to Headquarters so that I could attend law school at night at the National Law Center, George Washington University. The request was granted immediately. In July 1972 I was reassigned from Alaska to Washington, D.C. to become the Chief of the newly formed Minority Recruiting Section in Coast Guard Headquarters. I applied to three law schools. They were American University, Catholic University and George Washington University. Only one school responded to my application. That was George Washington University. In 1974, while working at Coast Guard Headquarters, I was accepted into the night school program at The National Law Center, The George Washington University. It was a long hard four years of grueling studies, but I graduated in 1977 with a Juris Doctorate of Laws Degree. That was truly a miracle. The Coast Guard did not have a separate Judge Advocate General's Corps (JAG). Coast Guard lawyers are called "legal specialists". These law specialists are line officers and can rotate out of the regular legal assignments. Frequently these tours of duty out of specialty are in law related areas. I served one such four year tour of duty as the Chief Marine Investigating Officer for the Marine Inspection Office in Battery Park, New York from 1982 to 1986. This job was similar to that of a city prosecutor. With a staff of ten investigating officers, I would investigate marine disasters for negligence and other causes of action. Any marine personnel found to have violated a marine safety law would be charged and tried before a Coast Guard administrative law judge at the World Trade Center. In the case of a major marine disaster with multiple loss of life, a formal Board of Inquiry would be convened under the direction of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). These Inquiries often would result in promulgation of new marine safety regulations under Title 46 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). One such incident was the Case of The Joan LaRie III, a charter fishing vessel that sank of the coast of New Jersey on October 24, 1982. One of my legal assignments was as a Law Specialist in the 12th Coast Guard District Office, San Francisco, California and as an Assistant U. S. Attorney for the collection of Civil Penalties under the Federal Boating Safety Act from 1979 to 1982. An Assistant District Legal Officer, I was required to defend as well as prosecute military members who had been charged with violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Occasionally I was asked to represent other officers in administrative actions involving sexual harassment and discrimination. One such case was the Case of ENS Christine D. Balboni, who filed a complaint against three senior male officers and against the Department of Transportation and the United States Coast Guard (DOT Case No. 82-177). Ensign Balboni was one of the first female graduates of the Coast Guard Academy. She graduated in the Class of 1981 and was assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter RUSH, a high endurance law enforcement vessel stationed in Alameda, California. She filed a formal complaint of sexual harassment against three senior officers on board the RUSH. She alleged that false special fitness reports had been written concerning her and that the captain of the ship had requested her immediate transfer off the ship long before her normal rotation date. After no other lawyer would take her case, Commander Ronald Mathews, Chief of The 12th District Legal Office, assigned me to represent Ensign Balboni in a formal departmental administrative hearing before a federal administrative law judge. The charges made by Ensign Balboni were determined to be valid. The relief granted was to have the false special fitness reports removed from her service record and destroyed. She was promoted to the next higher rank. Her career was saved. No disciplinary action was taken against the offending officers. ENS Balboni retired from the Coast Guard 25 years later with the rank of Captain. In 1986 I was detailed to the National Narcotics Border Interdiction System (NNBIS) under the Office of Vice President at the time, George H. W. Bush. My office was in the World Trade Center, New York, NY. When I retired in June 1988 I became the first African-American Coast Guard Academy graduate to retire as a regular line office from the service, and held the rank of Lieutenant-Commander. I retired to Dumont, New Jersey and practiced law in New York, with a focus on family law and defending Coast Guardsmen accused of federal crimes. I am a retired member of the New York State, New York City, and Tennessee Bar Associations. In July 1990 I was appointed a federal administrative law judge by President George W. Bush. I was assigned to the Ninth Region of the Social Security Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) in Downey,California. In April 2009, I decided that I had done all that I could do in the legal profession. There were no other mountains to climb. God's miracle had lasted for over 35 years. It was time to move on. I retired from being United States Administrative Law Judge. For the last three years I have devoted myself to philanthropic endeavors. The Steverson Collection at and the Steverson Collection Book Club are two of the major endeavors of The Steverson Foundation to improve literacy and to spread American culture in the non-English speaking countries of Europe. The Cultural Diplomacy Award was given to me and my family in April 2009 by the United States Ambassador to Hungary for helping create "a foundation of trust" with the people, which can be built on to reach political, economic, and military agreements; and that combats the notion that Americans are shallow, violent, and godless. He helped to affirm that Americans have such values as family, faith, and the desire for education in common with others; he helped to create a relationship with the people, which will endure beyond changes in government; he helped to reach influential members of the society, who could not be reached through traditional diplomatic functions; and, he donated a large collection of new, used, and rare English books to the American Corners of Hungary. The State Department Cultural Diplomacy Award is designed to honor distinguished representatives of American culture whose efforts and artistry advance America's goals of mutual understanding and the deepening of friendship between the United States and others.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Illegal Immigrants, Social security benefits, and Freedom Of Information Act


Civil Action No. 11-1387 (JEB).

United States District Court, District of Columbia.

April 6, 2012.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, Defendant, represented by Fred Elmore Haynes, U.S. ATTORNEY’S OFFICE.
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant, represented by Fred Elmore Haynes, U.S. ATTORNEY’S OFFICE.

JAMES E. BOASBERG, District Judge.
Plaintiff Raul Rodriguez-Cervantes, a federal prisoner incarcerated in Post, Texas, brings this pro se suit under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552. In so doing, Plaintiff seems to have put the cart before the horse. Plaintiff has brought a FOIA suit before first having his FOIA request denied. Indeed, he has brought a FOIA suit before even submitting a FOIA request. As such, the Court will grant Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment and dismiss the case without prejudice.
I. Background
On December 15, 2010, Plaintiff sent a letter to Defendant Social Security Administration (SSA) seeking assistance regarding applying for social security benefits. The letter stated in relevant part:
I worked in the United States for about 15 years and always paid my social security deductions. Now I am a federal prisoner and upon the expiration of my sentence I will be removed to Mexico, my native country. At this time, I would like to know if there is any way/application to get my social security benefit before the age established by the S.S. policies. My question is due to the fact that I will be deported from this country and I do not know whether I should have a relative or friend in this country (which I do not have) to get those benefits or I should file some forms to get it in advance of the age required by the S.S. Administration.

SSA responded with a standard form letter in which it informed Plaintiff that “[n]either Social Security benefits not SSI payments are payable to prisoners just because they are being released or because they have been in prison.” In addition to providing Plaintiff with a phone number to call if he wished to file for social security benefits, SSA enclosed in the letter two brochures entitled “Social Security: What Prisoners Need To Know” and “Social Security: Entering The Community After Incarceration—How We Can Help.”
On April 8, 2011, Plaintiff sent another letter to SSA stating:
This is a request for Social Security Disability Benefits.
In suport of my request, a deportation from the United States will be executed as soon as my current sentence be completed. The term of deportation is undefined. Although, my age is not the required in accordance with the proceedings, however, there is undisputable that a deportation will satisfy more than the necessary disability [sic].
Accordingly, please provide me with the necessary information in order to proceed with my request.
According to Plaintiff, on April 20, 2011, the agency responded with “an identical letter as the [prior one].”
Finally, on May 12, 2011, Plaintiff sent yet another letter to SSA stating:

I am an inmate incarcerated at the Giles W. Dalby Correctional Facility in Post, Texas. Since I can’t visit your office in Lubbock and I have no access to a computer, I am requesting that you please send me an application so that I may apply for my social security benefits.
Opp., Exh. 2 (Plaintiff’s Letter). This time, SSA responded with “Social Security Earnings Information,” and Plaintiff was informed that SSA was “returning [his] request for information from [his] earnings record” because “[i]n light of the current budget situation, [SSA has] suspended the Request[-]a[-]Social[-]Security[-]Statement service.” Opp., Exh. 1 (SSA Letter). Plaintiff was, however, given the option to go online to estimate his retirement benefits using SSA’s online Retirement Estimator. Id.
No other record exists of Plaintiff’s seeking to obtain information from SSA. Plaintiff has nonetheless brought this FOIA suit seeking the “disclos[ure] . . . [of] his entire record as maintained within the System of Records of the Social Security Administration Office on December 15, 2010, together with any other records pertinent to the said request.” Before the Court now is Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment.
II. Legal Standard
Summary judgment may be granted if “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” “A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by citing to particular parts of materials in the record.” The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. “[A] material fact is `genuine’ . . . if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party” on an element of the claim. Factual assertions in the moving party’s affidavits or declarations may be accepted as true unless the opposing party submits his own affidavits, declarations, or documentary evidence to the contrary.
FOIA cases typically and appropriately are decided on motions for summary judgment. In a FOIA case, the Court may grant summary judgment based solely on information provided in an agency’s affidavits or declarations if they are relatively detailed and when they describe “the documents and the justifications for nondisclosure with reasonably specific detail, demonstrate that the information withheld logically falls within the claimed exemption, and are not controverted by either contrary evidence in the record nor by evidence of agency bad faith.” Such affidavits or declarations are accorded “a presumption of good faith, which cannot be rebutted by `purely speculative claims about the existence and discoverability of other documents.’”
III. Analysis

The sole basis for Plaintiff’s FOIA claim seems to be that SSA did not produce “his entire record as maintained within [SSA's] System of Records” in response to his December 15 letter, which merely requested “to know if there is any way/application to get my social security benefits before the age established by the S.S. policies.” The natural question raised by this claim is whether the December 15 letter—or indeed any of Plaintiff’s other letters to SSA—somehow amounts to a FOIA request. Although common sense offers an answer to this question, the Court will probe further.
A valid FOIA request must (i) “reasonably” describe the records sought and (ii) must be made “in accordance with [the requested agency's] published rules stating the time, place, fees (if any), and procedures to be followed.” [s] specifically to the FOIA.” Importantly, “an agency’s obligations commence upon receipt of a valid request; failure to file a perfected request therefore constitutes failure to exhaust administrative remedies.” And, as is well settled, a FOIA suit cannot be sustained where the plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. (“It goes without saying that exhaustion of remedies is required in FOIA cases.”)). Since SSA requires that all FOIA requests actually “ask for records,” any purported request that does not do so is invalid. A requester that fails to ask for records, therefore, fails to exhaust his administrative remedies.
Even if given the liberal interpretation that Plaintiff urges, his December 15 letter is by no means a FOIA request, and the circumstances plainly suggest he did not intend it to be one. Plaintiff’s letter contains no explicit or even implicit request for the production of any records. Indeed, in his own words, Plaintiff characterizes the letter as one “seeking assistance for benefits under the grounds of his deportation.” In addition, neither of Plaintiff’s two other letters to SSA was a FOIA request or anything that could be liberally construed to amount to a request for records. Plaintiff requests information about how to apply for social security benefits, asks whether or not he qualifies for those benefits given his circumstances, and seeks an application for social security benefits. He does not, however, request the production of records. As his letters merely pose questions to SSA or ask for assistance in applying for social security benefits, they do not constitute valid FOIA requests. Whether or not Plaintiff was satisfied by the responses to his questions or the level of assistance he was receiving, a FOIA suit is not the proper means by which to obtain a different response.
Finally, the fate of Plaintiff’s suit is sealed with his concession that “there may not have record of a freedom information request, but, however there his request for benefits [sic].” Plaintiff himself admits that he has no FOIA request before SSA. He has, therefore, brought a FOIA suit without first filing a FOIA request and exhausting available remedies. It cannot survive.
The Court last notes that Plaintiff’s objective throughout may simply be to acquire an application for social security benefits. To that end, Defendant has offered to arrange for Plaintiff to request a copy of his earnings record and to provide him with an application for benefits. The Court appreciates the assistance.
IV. Conclusion
As the Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, the Court will grant Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. A separate Order consistent with this Opinion will issue dismissing the case without prejudice.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Lawyers Fight Among Themselves Before They Fight The Opposition

Seattle-based John Henry Browne is the civilian attorney representing Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, the U.S. soldier accused of murdering 17 Afghan villagers. Attorney Browne wants to replace the military lawyer assigned to the case. They are having serious disagreements over how to handle the defense.

"You are fired, sorry, but we have much more experience than you," Attorney Browne, said to military lawyer Major Thomas Hurley. Major Hurley is an experienced military lawyer. He has handled more than 60 military courts-martial; three involved homicide charges; however, none were capital cases.

The Army assigns defense counsel such as Hurley to soldiers facing court martial but defendants also have the right to hire additional civilian counsel. The military assigned counsel is called the Detailed Military counsel (DMC). The hired civilian counsel is called the Individual Military counsel (IMC).

"Major Hurley is not a team player and has no experience in murder cases, we do," Attorney Browne has said. "We have gotten 17 not guilty verdicts in murder cases and have gotten life verdicts in all our death penalty cases."

Browne unleashed a unilateral public attack on the way U.S. prosecutors are handling the investigation into the shooting and accused U.S. authorities of blocking access to potential witnesses. There is also disagreement over the decision to put Bales' wife on the television talk show circuit.

Major Hurley believes making public statement on television before the trial "limit our options at trial or expose important witnesses to effective cross-examination that they would otherwise not have to face".

I faced similar situations when I was a retired officer Coast Guard Law Specialist representing Coast Guard members in Coast Guard Base New York in courts-martial. However, I never had to assert my authority as lead counsel, Individual Military Counsel (IMC). The Coast Guard always detailed the most junior and inexperienced military counsel to the members that I represented. They were only qualified to carry my brief case and take notes, and they knew it. They were content to observe and listen and sometimes offer a helpful comment. I had just retired, I knew the Uniform Code of Military Justice; I knew the accused; and I knew the judges and all of the members of the Prosecution team; so, I was better qualified to represent the accused. And the military counsels knew this, so , they never challenged my decisions in conducting the defense of the accused.

In the case of the Coast Guard Academy court-martial of Cadet Webster Smith there was similar tension and disagreement between CDR Merle Smith, (IMC) and LT Stuart Kirkby, (DMC). LT Kirkby was not even a Coast Guard Law Specialist. He was a Navy Judge Advocate General from the Naval Submarine Base at Groton, CT..

There was serious tension between CDR Smith and LT Kirkby. The tension and friction became so acute that it required several emergency sessions with the parents of Cadet Webster Smith to settle the issues. (THIS SUBJECT WILL BE TREATED IN DETAIL IN MY NEXT BOOK, THE SEQUEL TO CONDUCT UNBECOMING an Officer and Lady)

There were disagreements about who to put on the witness list, who to call as a witness, who wouldl make the Opening Statement, who wouldl make the Closing Argument, who would argue which motion, which motions to bring, who wouldl examine which witnesses, who would make objections to statement and questions by the Prosecution, whether to give interviews to the news media, which questions to ask which witness; and , the biggest issue of all, whether to put the Accused, Webster Smith, on the witness stand. That is always a crucial decision. In the Webster Smith Case, it may have been the one issue decided the final verdict in the case.

This review is from: CONDUCT UNBECOMING an Officer and Lady (Kindle Edition)

CONDUCT UNBECOMING an Officer and a Lady: A Review.

I read this book. Judge London Steverson, the author, a 1968 Coast Guard Academy graduate, and retiree, did an outstanding job of parsing the facts of what is arguably a judicial tragedy.

According to the book, leaders at the Coast Guard Academy failed to follow the recommendation of the investigating officer, which was not to prosecute the accused of sexual assault, among other allegations, because evidence of the alleged crimes seemed insufficient; failed to follow procedures in responding to the defendant's Article 138 claim and failed to allow the defendant the customary grace period before reporting for confinement. There are a few other apparent missteps--like failing to instruct the jury that the defense does not have a burden of proof in criminal cases--that are capably documented in the book. Rather, according to the author, the Coast Guard Academy leadership chose to prosecute on the recommendation of a staff attorney in spite of the recommendation of the investigating officer the leadership appointed.

As for the defendant, some of his alleged conduct could, conceivably, call into question his judgment and discretion. To that end, he seemed to overlook a common, conspiratorial axiom: "There is no honor among thieves." As it relates to discretion, at his age he may not have heard the axiom, "Loose lips sink ships." The defendant was popular and athletic according to the book. These are traits that some others usually find attractive. Judge Steverson details how these traits attracted several cadets to the defendant. Consequently, one of the attractees had a mishap that directly involved the defendant and the two entered into a secret pact not to reveal the mishap because it could have an impact on both of their lives as cadets. Well, the defendant's second error seemed one of indiscretion because this particular attractee subsequently got wind of the tale involving the shared secret and turned her apparent affection into unabated vengeance. Not only did she turn to vengeance towards the once popular, now vilified athlete, but another five or six attractees also seemed to act in concert, according to the text. According to the author's account. All it took to convict the defendant was the allegations of sexual assault among other allegations.

The gist of the book is the author's plea to the Coast Guard to live up to the Constitution that its members, including the Court Martial's convening authority and the defendant, swore to uphold and protect. He pleads with Coast Guard Academy leadership not to substitute their personal feelings of how they think the world should operate for justice. The author asks them to remain faithful to this nation's long-standing creed of "Equal protection under the law." Finally, the author pleads with the Coast Guard Academy leadership to adhere to established legal procedures. Rather than answer the author's pleas to uphold and protect the Constitution, ensure equal protection under the law and adhere to established legal procedures, the author asserts the Coast Guard seemed to want to send a message to this cadet. Why this cadet? We may never know. He was talented, athletic and popular, but it is fairly certain most cadets are talented and athletic, even if not popular. Perhaps, the timing was wrong; perhaps the Coast Guard thought it was time to address the issue of sexual assault at the Coast Guard Academy or was it just bad timing for this cadet? That this cadet was the first cadet in Coast Guard history to be court martialed and had a distinguishable ethnicity is germane. Wrong place? Wrong time? You decide.

The author gives you a lot to work with. It is readily apparent the esteemed author thoroughly researched this matter and presented exhaustive explanations of law and fact. Transcripts of the legal proceedings are provided in the appendixes. This book is recommended to anyone interested in military legal proceedings or simple justice. The author's assertion that this case will live in infamy does not seem like an exaggeration. Only time will tell if it is the Coast Guard Academy's or the defendant's infamy.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Coast Guard Honors First Black Academy Graduate.

NEW LONDON, Conn. — The Coast Guard Academy in New London honored its first African-American graduate on April 1st with a new award that is named after him.

The Day newspaper of New London reports that CDR Merle James Smith Jr., USCG (Ret.) received the inaugural Merle J. Smith Pioneer Award at the Academy on Sunday, April 1st. The 67-year-old Mystic resident graduated in the Academy Class of 1966 and served 23 years of regular and reserve active duty in the Coast Guard.

CDR Smith was the first Black cadet to be admitted to the United States Coast Guard Academy. The Academy was founded in 1876.

This recognition is well deserved and long overdue. Honoring the first Black graduate honors all Black graduates. The Academy was founded in 1876. The exclusion of African Americans from the Academy from 1876 until 1962 is a tragic fact of American history. The meager resources allotted to Black recruitment is just as tragic.

CDR Smith was the first Black cadet to be admitted to the United States Coast Guard Academy. He was not an Affirmative Action cadet. He was not appointed in direct response to President Kennedy's directive to find qualified Black high school graduates for the Academy.

The Academy was not aware at first that there was an African American cadet at the Academy. He had not been recruited as a "Black cadet"; nor, was he recognized as one by the Coast Guard Academy Admission's Office. He was not recognized as an African American because he did not physically resemble one. None of his school records labeled him as Black, and he had not been recruited as a minority candidate. When Black spectators came to watch the entire corps of cadets march in parade, they frequently mistook Anthony Carbone and Donnie Winchester as the possible Black cadet. Carbone was an Italian, and Winchester was a Native American. They both were considerably darker than Merle Smith.

CDR Smith's appointment had been tendered before President Kennedy issued the directive to find and appoint Black candidates for the Coast Guard Academy. His father, Colonel Merle Smith , Senior, was the Professor of Military Science at Morgan State College in Baltimore, Maryland; and, he had formerly been an Army Staff officer at the Pentagon.

The only two Black cadets to have been recruited under President John F. Kennedy's Directive were London Steverson and Kenneth Boyd. they both entered the Academy in 1964 and graduated in 1968.

CDR Smith is a 1974 graduate of the National Law Center at George Washington University, Washington, DC. He attended law school while serving in the Coast Guard. He became a Coast Guard Law Specialist.

After graduating, his Coast Guard career took him to Vietnam in 1969, where he commanded a patrol boat for a year. He became the first sea-service African-American to be awarded a Bronze Star. After receiving his law degree from George Washington University in 1974 he became a Coast Guard Law Specialist. Later, he returned to the New London, CT area to work as an attorney for Electric Boat, the Groton-based submarine builder.

It was after retiring from active duty in the Coast Guard, he became an adjunct law professor at the Coast Guard Academy.

In 2006 while teaching law at the Academy CDR Smith was retained as the Individual Military Counsel for Cadet Webster Smith who became the first Coast Guard Academy cadet to be court-martial in the history of the Coast Guard Academy. CDR Smith is no relation to Cadet Webster Smith. Cadet Webster Smith was detailed a Navy Judge Advocate Ggeneral (JAG) officer as his detailed military counsel. The Individual Military counsel is the lead counsel. He is a civilian and he is in charge of the defense team.

CDR Smith received a Pioneer Award. What does that mean? A "Pioneer" is a person who is among those who first enter or settle a region, thus opening it for occupation and development by others. What was the criteria for selection? Who was on the Selection Committee? Was there anyone else in contention? Will there be subsequent recipients? How many times can one do something for the first time?

The Award could have been called the Trailblazer Award. Trailblazer is a synonym for Pioneer. The term trailblazer signifies those who strike out on a new path or break new ground, either literally or symbolically, using skills of innovation or brave constitutions to conduct their lives off the beaten path. Often known for independent thought, rugged individualism and pioneering ways, trailblazers throughout history have included cutting-edge inventors, explorers and healers. Trailblazers throughout history all have shared an innovative spirit that kept them going when told their endeavors would be fruitless or against impossible odds. All have made their mark on history and mankind by refusing to quit and pushing ahead, most often into uncharted territory. When Merle James Smith entered the Coast Guard Academy in June 1962 he was sailing into uncharted waters. He had no chart, compass or navigator; yet, he reached his destination.

Minority recruitment remains an area that the Academy alleges is the impossible dream. Thirty-three percent of Coast Guard cadets are female; one out of three cadets is a female. The first female classes produced several flag rank officers. We have a plethora of female admirals. In February, 1976 the Coast Guard Academy announced the appointments of female cadets to enter with the Class of 1980. Fourteen women graduate as part of the Academy's Class of 1980. in 1991 a Women's Advisory Council established. In 2000 the first female Coast Guard officer to be promoted to Rear Admiral was Vivien S. Crea. She was not an Academy graduate. in 2009 CAPT Sandra L. Stosz was promoted to Rear Admiral, becoming the first female graduate of the Coast Guard Academy to reach flag rank.

The Coast Guard was the first to select a woman superintendent of a military service academy. Rear Adm. Sandra L. Stosz, Coast Guard director of reserve and leadership was selected as Superintendent of the Academy. Rear Admiral Stosz graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in the Class of 1982.

In 2008 the Academy hosted a free, public Women's Equality Day information fair on August 26 in Munro Hall at the Academy.

Each year since 1971, when President Jimmy Carter designated August 26 as Women's Equality Day, the United States has recognized the struggle for equal rights for women.

In the Coast Guard Academy is celebrated the event with the theme "Strengthening Our Communities" by hosting various Coast Guard and regional community groups on campus.

"This was billed as a great opportunity for members of our Coast Guard and surrounding New London community to network and learn from the organizations that help support and strengthen Academy leadership," said LTJG Colleen Jones, Assistant Civil Cights Officer at the Academy and the event organizer.

The various organizations in attendance were the Greater New Haven National Organization of Women, the General Federation of Women's Clubs of Connecticut, National Naval Officers Association, Academy Women, Toastmasters, CG Educational Services, CG Child Development Center, and the League of Women Voters.