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Soldier serves state and nation as judge and Guardsman

By Capt. Joe Trovato | Wisconsin National Guard | Aug. 14, 2020

WAUKESHA, Wis. – Waukesha County’s newest circuit court judge has a long history of public service as a Citizen-Soldier in the Wisconsin National Guard.

Maj. Jack Melvin, senior defense counsel with the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 505th Trial Defense Team, was sworn in as a Waukesha County Circuit Court judge in a judicial investiture ceremony Aug. 7.

Melvin, who was deployed three times and mobilized to active duty almost four years during his 15-year career in the Wisconsin Army National Guard, brings a wealth of experience from his military career to his new position on the bench.

He mobilized for an 18-month deployment to Egypt from June 2008 to December 2009 when he was the only attorney at the U.S. embassy in Cairo. He deployed to Jordan in 2014 in what became an anti-Daesh mission, and then to Iraq in 2016.

The Melvin family has a history of military service. His father and uncle served in the Army. His uncles on his mother’s side all served in the Air Force, and most of his cousins served in the Navy.

He credits his experiences in the Guard with preparing him to assume his new role.

“The Guard has set me up to be a successful judge in many different ways,” he said.

“Just being a leader in the Guard and being a leader in the Army has really helped me prepare for this,” he said. “No. 2, being a really good team player. Here in Waukesha, we have 12 judges, and the other judges really do make me feel like I’m part of their team. So we help each other. We lift each other up. We mentor each other – all that kind of stuff, and I think without the Guard experience, I might have been a little bit leery of that.”

Melvin said serving in the Guard as a judge advocate has exposed him to fiscal and administrative law, interpretation of Department of Defense directives, National Guard Bureau directives, rulemaking processes, environmental law, family law and criminal defense. He estimated he has also prepared more than 1,000 wills for Soldiers.

As the current senior defense counsel for the Wisconsin Guard’s Trial Defense Team, Melvin helps defend Soldiers in disciplinary matters.

At other points in his career, he’s also served as a prosecutor in military courts-martial proceedings.

“It’s really kind of set me up,” he said of his experience in so many aspects of military law. “Because there’s no lawyer out there who’s done every type of law, unless you’re maybe a Guardsman.”

Melvin joined the Marine Corps while in college at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, but an injury during officer candidate school derailed those plans. Then while at law school at Marquette University, he had a chance discussion with the Wisconsin National Guard’s state judge advocate, and he became a Judge Advocate General Corps officer in the Wisconsin National Guard. He commissioned in December 2004.

“The thing that’s been great about the Guard is it’s allowed me to serve in the military while having a regular life,” he said. “I’m able to be what I am now – a judge – but prior to that an attorney in private practice and not having to move every few years and actually put down roots.”

Like any Citizen-Soldier, Melvin has had to lean on a supportive family and employers to succeed in his professional and military careers. He knows he’ll have to strike a balance between his military commitments and those of the court in his new role.

“Thankfully, I’ve had some employers who have been really supportive, so it’s been pretty easy to make the time to do the stuff that the Guard needed,” he said. “So I was really able to balance the two because my employers afforded me the time to do both, so as Guard demands would increase or schooling was necessary, they’d let me take care of that.”