UVA Law Professor Benjamin Spencer Sworn In to JAG Corps
University of Virginia School of Law professor A. Benjamin Spencer was sworn into the U.S. Army Reserve, Judge Advocate General's Corps on Friday, becoming the second Law School faculty member currently in the Army Reserve.
The other professor, Maj. Tom Nachbar , administered the oath of office at the afternoon ceremony at the Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School. The center is adjacent to the Law School building on North Grounds.
Spencer is the Earle K. Shawe Professor of Law and teaches civil procedure. As a reservist, he will serve one weekend a month and two weeks each year, and will be initially tasked with reviewing written reports of alleged misconduct by officers. He is taking a break from teaching this spring to undergo initial training but will return in the fall of 2016.
Although he has no previous military experience, Spencer comes from a family that stressed public service, which spurred his appointment. His father, U.S. Judge James Randolph Spencer of the Eastern District of Virginia, served both in active duty and as a reservist.
"I didn't want to go through life regretting not having tried to do it," Spencer said.
His previous pro bono work has included serving as a special assistant U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, occasionally handling appellate cases in the Fourth Circuit on behalf of the government.
Spencer said he would like to build on the already strong cross-educational ties between the Law School and the JAG School, perhaps eventually teaching a military law class and serving as someone who can give practical advice to students interested in joining the JAG Corps.
He said he is excited to begin his six-week basic training at Fort Benning in January, although it comes with some sacrifice. The father of eight children welcomed his latest family member into the world about a month ago.
"Serving will be fun, I'm definitely looking forward to it," he said. "But I'll be away from my family, and that part is a challenge."
After basic training, Spencer will attend the JAG School, taking classes covering all of the areas of military law.
"Once I'm back here at the JAG School, I'll be able to live at home," he said. "That will be much less of a burden on my family."
Five members of the UVA Law Class of 2015 were accepted into the Army JAG Corps and may be among Spencer's classmates at the JAG School. They are Tumentugs Armstrong, Kayle Buchanan, Khaliah Burnley, Rory Erickson-Kulas and James Gochenour.
Nachbar said he was proud to swear in his colleague and expects that Spencer will find the military experience fulfilling.
"It was a particular honor to be able to swear Ben into the Army," Nachbar said. "I believe Ben will be an excellent soldier."
Nachbar — whose service has included editing books on the rule of law and helping to develop military doctrine, serving overseas to help build foreign legal systems, and overseeing misconduct investigations — said the work has been "both stimulating and gratifying."
"If Ben finds his service even half as meaningful as I have, he will not regret it," he said.
Spencer earned his J.D. from Harvard School of Law in 2001. He also holds a master's degree from the London School of Economics and a bachelor's degree from Morehouse College.
Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.