WMU-Cooley, as a military friendly and designated Yellow Ribbon School, talks to its military students, faculty and graduates about their journey from the military to law school and about their career goals. May’s monthly feature is WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Michael C.H. McDaniel. Professor Michael McDaniel was a Judge Advocate General and Brigadier General before he turned his legal career to teaching for WMU-Cooley’s Homeland & National Security program.
Military rank and title: Retired Brigadier General
Career Description: I participated in ROTC as an undergrad, but as I knew wanted to go to law school, a military career was put on hold. Some years later, I had just started with the Michigan Office of Attorney General. Almost the first case assigned to me was Harris v. Missavage. A soldier in the Michigan National Guard, on state training duty, had a ruptured Achilles tendon, misdiagnosed by another Guardsman, a young doctor. Harris sued, claiming malpractice. Because both soldiers were on state duty, the Feres doctrine, which bars one U.S. servicemember from suing another, did not apply. After we lost at trial, I successfully argued that the Court of Appeals should adopt a similar reasoning, that is, that there is a full system of benefits to cover medical and other needs and that to permit such lawsuits would irreparably damage unit cohesion and morale. After the Court agreed [see 165 Mich App 96 (1987)], the Michigan National Guard asked me if I wanted to be a Judge Advocate General.
Why law school was a great decision for you: It was the best decision I could have made as the JAG Corps permitted me to further my legal education, both in the classroom and the courtroom. It broadened my network of attorneys, provided a release from the office environment, as well as unique travel opportunities, and led to my involvement in Homeland Security and to further promotion. Those opportunities included working security at the Atlanta Olympics, attending the Jungle Operations Training Course in Panama, serving as both the Commanding Officer and exercise leader for a NATO training exercise which was a prerequisite to the Baltic States and Bulgaria’s membership, and many others.
On September 11, 2001, the governor’s legal counsel called me and asked me to draft an Executive Order for the governor to deploy the Michigan National Guard at Michigan’s international border crossings at Port Huron, Sault Ste. Marie, and at the Ambassador Bridge, tunnel and Detroit Metro Airport. And with that, my interest in Homeland Security and the needed laws and constitutional restrictions, began, culminating in the development of the Master of Laws in Homeland and National Security degree here at WMU-Cooley. That assistance on 9/11 and the new interest in Homeland Security directly led to being appointed the first state Homeland Security Advisor in Michigan and to being appointed as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense Planning, six years later.
Why law students with military backgrounds are successful: Law students with a military background tend to be older, to have diverse life experiences and to have gained organizational skills and an understanding of how large organizations work. Second, those with advanced training in many military operational skills, such as in military planning or intelligence, have already developed the analytical processes that law school teaches. Third, they already have lived a life of service; they know that service to others is their most important virtue. Undoubtedly, as attorneys they will be involved in public service professions or pro bono activities because duty to others has become deeply instilled within them. Most importantly, military members already have been trained to live by a code of conduct and to understand the reasons for that code, just as new lawyers must do.
Tell us about you: My daily goal is the same as my long-term goal, to live a life of public service. One of the greatest attributes of WMU-Cooley is its focus on service as well as education and scholarship. It has provided me the opportunity to serve the larger public in many ways, including my current project: the Flint mayor named me to lead the recovery efforts for the city of Flint. Drafting a recovery plan is challenging and complex, due to many economic, political, historic and engineering issues. But I relish the challenge and the opportunity to serve.
More Blogs featuring Professor Michael McDaniel: