Interviewer: When military people call you for representation, what are some of the top misconceptions they have about the process that they’re going to go through, that you have to explain to them about?
Chris: I think the greatest misconception is the level of experience that you will have. So, for instance, most clients are not aware that you’re a former JAG attorney and the role that experience plays in defending people who are charged with crimes and the familiarity between the system.
Attorney Cazares Believes in the Value of Experience
Some people just believe that if you’re a civilian attorney, then you handle things on a local level. Obviously, if you’re a former JAG attorney and you have over 100 court-martials prosecuted or defended, you’re going to have a different level of experience than somebody who would be at the local office.
When you look at the higher-ranking individuals, once you get to a certain level of experience, you’re going to promote out of the litigation jobs. It’s very rare to see somebody with higher ranking litigating.
The lack of experience is bottom-heavy and the higher-experience people end up taking other jobs. When you do hire a civilian, one of the things that need to be explained is that your experience is continually increasing your knowledge on the subject and you’re becoming a subject matter expert and you never promote out of that job.
You are always defending those military members. You’re remaining current on the case law. The value of experience, I think, is the greatest difference. Frankly, when somebody calls you, they may have already met their main counsel and, for that reason, that’s why they’re calling you.
Attorney Cazares Has Appeared in Over 100 Military Court-Martial Cases
Interviewer: What advantages do you bring to case that a military-appointed counsel might not have?
Chris: Yes. I wouldn’t say it’s just a matter of difference, because there is talented military counsel out there and I would never take away anything from them. Statistically, what you will find is that, when you hire somebody who has my level of experience, for instance, over 100 courts-martial or greater, what you’re going to find is that level of experience is not represented in the military.
The Majority of Military-Appointed Counsel Do Not Have That Level of Expertise
That is the exception. You will find very few people with that level of experience. When you hire somebody with experience, I liken it to playing football. The first time that you put on the helmet and the pads and you’re in seventh grade and you run out there, you have no clue as to what’s going on.
Then, you fast-forward six years from then, you’re a senior in high school and you’re looking at a higher level of expertise. You are picking up on things that only experience can bring.
For instance, when you’re in the court-martial, you can anticipate because you prosecuted and defended these exact same types of cases over and over. You’re able to anticipate what the government is going to do, what the defense is going to do. It’s not your first rodeo.
Attorney’s Compensation Is Another Common Misconception
Interviewer: Are there any other misconceptions that people have when they contact you?
Chris: I think one thing that is always a topic of conversation is payment. Obviously, when you pay for a professional, you’re paying for a professional service. Because of that, you don’t want to end up having to worry about the bill during the middle of a surgery, for instance.
Most Defendants Are Truly Worried About the Outcome
You’re paying for somebody’s experience and that’s part of it, but as far as the actual court-martial process, I would say one of the greatest misconceptions is, where is it going to end in the process.
Often times, you just simply can’t tell. You can be aggressive in every part of the process and it pays to do your best, but it’s also a strategy. In some cases, it’s more likely going to end up at court or a court-martial and you have to start gearing up both mentally and with your resources for that conclusion.
Which is going to be in front of a panel of members or a military judge fighting for your liberty, fighting for truth.