A Fire in the Belly

Early on during his education and professional career, Mark Bridges gained a deep respect and passion for military service and the practice of criminal law.

With the help of an ROTC scholarship, Mark began his educational journey by earning a bachelor’s degree, studying Economics and English at Centre College in Kentucky. Through his involvement in ROTC, Mark gained a deep respect for servicemembers and their sacrifices. Although not born into a military family, Mark learned about the opportunities the military offers those who are less fortunate, like himself. He admired the sense of mission and purpose all service members have in serving their country.

Driven to become a lawyer by his desire to help people solve their problems, Mark earned his Juris Doctorate (JD) law degree from Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville. Although he initially planned to pursue a path in civilian law, destiny brought him back to the military. One of Mark’s first legal work experiences was in a private-sector corporation. Despite its attractive compensation offering, Mark felt uninspired by work that seemingly focused on securing clients and maximizing profits. More importantly, the lack of human connection and interaction proved to be a deal-breaker. Mark entered active duty with The Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAGC) as a military lawyer, beginning a 30-year journey that would end as a Colonel and Chief Trial Judge of the US Army. Throughout his career, Mark Came to develop a familial connection to the military, as he immersed himself in his work with service members.

Whereas the goal for most military lawyers is to become a Staff Judge Advocate, Mark aspired to one day serve as a Military Judge. Criminal law became his passion, and he set his sights on becoming the best criminal law litigator in the military. Mark achieved his goals and mastered the practice of military criminal law, excelling in almost every military justice job the Army had to offer, while also obtaining Master of Laws (LLM) degree in Criminal Law from the US Army Judge Advocate General’s School, and a Master of Laws (LLM) degree in Constitutional Law from Georgetown University Law Center.

Throughout his work and educational journey, Mark positioned himself to have an impact on military criminal justice, ensuring appropriate representation was provided to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen under investigation or pending criminal charges, and that justice was served. Having worked with both government and private-sector professionals driven by mercenary ambitions, Mark concluded that there is far greater honor in supporting the men and women of the Armed Forces Rather than limiting vocational efforts to fulfilling self-serving interests — eventually leading him to launch his current firm.

When entering the courtroom today, Mark still has the same “fire in the belly” that led him on his initial career path, pursuing the practice of military criminal law and providing superior representation to servicemembers. Mark’s years of experience and accomplishments serving in both the prosecution and defense of court-martial trials, and ultimately as a Military Trial Judge and Chief Trial Judge uniquely position him as a premier civilian defense counsel and attorney for military service members. As a Defense Attorney, Prosecutor, and Appellate Attorney, Mark has been responsible for the prosecution and defense of hundreds of court-martial trials, as well as presiding as a Trial Judge in over 400 more court-martial trials.

All of Mark’s experience and passion is now dedicated to the men and women of the Armed Forces that he represents in his private law practice. Mark’s skill in the courtroom is second to none. His ability to speak the language of senior commanders, having served as a senior legal advisor to many of them, is yet another talent that benefits his clients, including senior NCOs and officers.

Rising through the Ranks

Mark began his 30-year career with the US Army as a Criminal Prosecutor at Fort Stewart, Georgia, for approximately 50 court-martial trials. He Collaborated with and advised CID agents conducting criminal investigations, drafted and preferred charges, and handled all aspects of conducting criminal trials and sentencing proceedings.

He gained additional prosecutorial experience as a Special Assistant US Attorney in Federal Magistrate Court for the Southern District of Georgia, working on investigations and prosecutions of civilian criminal misconduct on military installations.

As a senior Captain, Mark supervised criminal prosecutions at Fort Bliss, Texas, as the “Chief” of the Criminal Law Division. He mentored and supervised five Criminal Prosecutors and advised the Staff Judge Advocate and Commanding General on all criminal investigations and prosecutions. In all, Mark was involved directly or as a supervisor in approximately 100 court-martial trials at Fort Bliss.

Mark also has extensive experience as a Criminal Defense Attorney, both at the trial and appellate level. His first defense experience came while working as an Appellate Defense Counsel at the US Army Defense Appellate Division in Washington DC, where Mark personally represented Soldiers in over 100 criminal appeals before the US Army Court of Criminal Appeals (ACCA) and the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF). As an Appellate Defense Counsel, Mark reviewed records of trial for convicted Soldiers, raised legal issues and wrote briefs, and presented oral arguments in cases before ACCA and CAAF.

In his next defense assignment, Mark Served as Senior Defense Counsel in the US Army Trial Defense Service’s Hawaii Field Office, supervising three other military Criminal Defense Attorneys and personally representing his own clients in court-martial trials, administrative separation actions, and nonjudicial punishment for Soldiers in the Hawaii/Pacific Region. In all, Mark personally represented or supervised the criminal defense of approximately 150 court-martial trials.

As a recognized expert in criminal defense litigation, Mark was hand-selected to serve in the military’s most challenging defense assignment—the defense of detained, suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, charged with war crimes, immediately following the 9/11 attacks. Mark, the only Army JAG officer chosen for this daunting task, along with four other JAGs from the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force, successfully challenged the Military Commissions system before the United States Supreme Court, amidst national media coverage. He and his colleagues received several prominent awards from world-renowned human rights and civil liberties organizations. Mark was elevated to serve as the Acting Deputy Chief Defense Counsel for the office, under the purview of the Office of General Counsel, Department of Defense.

After obtaining his Master of Laws (LLM) degree in Constitutional Law from Georgetown University Law Center, Mark Went on to teach as an Associate Professor at the United States Military Academy (USMA), Department of Law, at West Point, New York. He was the Course Director for an Advanced Constitutional Law seminar intended for law majors. Many of his former students now have their own successful careers as military attorneys in the US Army.

Following West Point, Mark achieved one of his major career goals with his assignment to the trial bench as a Circuit Judge in the US Army Trial Judiciary at Fort Carson, Colorado. In addition to presiding over felony-level court-martial trials, he served as the “Benchbook Editor” (an honor typically given to a more senior trial judge), supervising several other trial judges in developing jury instructions and trial guides used by all the military services. Mark was also promoted to Colonel during this assignment.

Mark next had the honor of serving as the Staff Judge Advocate for the 25th Infantry Division & US Army, Hawaii, and the Principal Legal Advisor to the senior commander (a Major General and Division Commander) and other senior Army commanders, where he led and managed an office of over 30 attorneys, 50 paralegals, and administrative staff.

After yet another assignment as Circuit Judge in South Korea/Japan, where Mark managed the docket and presided over court-martial trials in one of the Army’s busiest and most remote locations, Mark was named “Chief Circuit Judge” of the US Army Trial Judiciary’s Fourth Circuit at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. As Chief Circuit Judge, Mark Mentored and managed approximately 11 trial judges in the Army’s largest judicial region, which included Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Fort Bliss, Fort Carson, Fort Irwin, Fort Huachuca, the Presidio at Monterey, Hawaii, Alaska, South Korea, and Japan.

The pinnacle of Mark’s Army career came with his selection as the US Army’s “Chief Trial Judge.” From his office at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, he led, trained, and managed the entire US Army Trial Judiciary, consisting of over 40 trial judges dispersed throughout the world. Mark Served as a liaison and adviser to The Judge Advocate General of the US Army (3-star General) for all issues related to the Trial Judiciary.

Accomplishments & Awards:

  • “Presidential Commendation, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers” by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, 2004.
  • “Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty Award” by the American Civil Liberties Union, 2005.
  • “Charles R. English Award” by the American Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section, 2007.
  • “Distinguished Alumni Award, Centre College” by Centre College, 2008.
  • “Distinguished Graduate, Military Judge Course” by the American Bar Association, Judicial Division, 2009.
  • “Master Military Justice Practitioner” by The Judge Advocate General, US Army, 2010.

Recognized Military Service

Mark received multiple awards for his military service as a Criminal Law Litigator, Senior Legal Advisor, and Trial Judge, which included two deployments to Kuwait and Afghanistan. Among other awards, Mark received the following:

  • “Legion of Merit”
  • “Defense Meritorious Service Medal”
  • “Army Meritorious Service Medal”
  • “Army Superior Unit Award”
  • “Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal”
  • “Southwest Asia Service Medal” with Bronze Service Star
  • “Afghanistan Campaign Medal” with two campaign stars
  • “NATO medal”

Professional Associations & Qualifications

  • A member in good standing of both the Hawaii and Kentucky Bar.
  • Qualified to practice before all military trial/appellate courts (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard), the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and the US Supreme Court.

Presentations / Publications

  • “Psychotherapist-Patient Privilege.” Presentation at Joint Military Judges’ Annual Training, Maxwell Air Force Base, AL (virtual), 2021.
  • “Trial Judiciary Perspective on Military Justice Practice.” Presentations at US Army Staff Judge Advocate Course, Charlottesville, VA, 2017—2019.
  • “Trial Judiciary Perspective.” Presentations at US Army Trial Defense Service Sexual Assault Leader Training, Fort Belvoir, VA 2017—2019.
  • “Special Victim Counsel and the Court-Martial.” Presentations to US Army Special Victim Counsel Course, Charlottesville, VA 2017—2019.
  • “Basics of Military Justice.” Presentation at US Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO, 2011.
  • “New Judge Panel.” Presentation and panel discussion at Military Judge Course, Charlottesville, VA, 2010.
  • “View from the Bench: The Overlooked Art of Conducting Voir Dire.” Published article in The Army Lawyer, 2009.
  • “The Legality of Military Commissions.” Presentation at American Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section, “Justice without Borders” Conference, Minneapolis, MN, 2005.
  • “Post-9/11 Military Commissions.” Presentation (Keynote Speaker) at Federal Judicial Conference, Eastern District of California, Sacramento, CA, 2004.
  • “Military Commissions.” Panel discussion at George Washington University Law School, 2004
  • “Defending Military Commissions.” Panel discussion at Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, DC, 2004.
  • “Military Commissions and the Rule of Law.” Presentation at Oxford University, London, UK, 2003
  • “Selection and Challenge of Court-Martial Panel Members.” Presentation at US Army Trial Defense Service Tri-Regional Conference, Las Vegas, NV, 2002.
  • “Impeachment and Prior Statements.” Presentation at US Army Trial Defense Service Region V Conference, Schofield Barracks, HI, 2001.
  • “Evidence Foundations.” Presentation at US Army Trial Defense Service Region V Conference, Schofield Barracks, HI, 2001.
  • “Defending a Urinalysis Case.” Presentation at US Army Trial Defense Service Tri-Regional Conference, Las Vegas, NV, 2000.
  • “Command Authority and Military Justice.” Presentations at US Army Sergeants Major Academy, Fort Bliss, TX, 1997—1999.
  • “Law Enforcement Interrogations.” Presentation at Criminal Investigation Command (CID) Training, Fort Bliss, TX, 1999.
  • “Search and Seizure.” Presentation at Criminal Investigation Command (CID) training, Fort Bliss, TX, 1998.
  • “Army Parole and Clemency Process.”  Presented at US Army Defense Appellate Division Training, Washington, DC, 1996.
  • “Urinalysis Procedures and the Army’s Limited Use Policy.” Presented at Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Program Training, Fort Stewart, GA, 1994.