Stetson Alumni Serve on Navy Ships

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Manager of Media Relations

Lieutenant Commander Brendan Burke '05.

Lieutenant Commander Brendan Burke '05. Photo courtesy of Burke. Click for high-resolution image.

Two Stetson graduates are serving as command judge advocates on the U.S. Navy’s largest ships.

When Lieutenant Commander Brendan Burke ’05 was selected for the Navy’s Law Education Program, he knew the privilege came with a six-year commitment to continue his military service. Then a Navy Lieutenant, Burke had already spent four years flying Seahawk helicopters when he was selected for the program that brought him to Stetson University College of Law. Five years after graduating, Burke is now a command judge advocate stationed on one of the most powerful warships in the world, the USS George H.W. Bush. The ship, a 1,092-foot Navy aircraft carrier, is stationed on the east coast of the U.S.




Lieutenant Commander Davin Rieke '99.

Lieutenant Commander Davin Rieke '99. Photo courtesy of Rieke. Click for high-resolution image.

At Stetson, Burke concentrated in advocacy and served as editor in chief of the Stetson Law Review. He met his wife Karin, also a graduate, while at Stetson. After graduating in 2005, Burke completed Naval Justice School and progressed through a variety of positions: heading the legal assistance department in Jacksonville, Fla., supervising 10 lawyers in three states and the Caribbean as senior defense counsel, and serving as command judge advocate to the U.S. Naval Station in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

“Within my first days as a Navy judge advocate, I was counseling individual clients with complicated family law and consumer law issues, and drafting estate plans for million-dollar-plus estates,” Burke explained. “Within my first year, I was lead defense counsel for felony-level criminal cases. The practical training at Stetson gave me not just the competence, but more importantly the confidence to effectively represent my client’s interests as a brand-new lawyer.”

In August 2009, Burke joined the USS George H.W. Bush. On board the Navy’s newest nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, Burke is the primary legal adviser to the commanding officer, practicing many different types of law, from military law and admiralty to environmental law and the law of the sea.

Lieutenant Commander Davin Rieke JD ’99 MBA ’99 is stationed on the USS Abraham Lincoln on the west coast of the U.S. “The best thing about this job, aside from not having to figure out what to wear every day, is the variety of issues that come up,” Rieke shared. “On any given day, I will need to advise on military criminal law and procedure, civilian criminal law and procedure, environmental law, use of force rules, ethics and administrative regulations, and/or admiralty law.”

Rieke said his average day on board the ship lasts from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., and is filled with Navy exercises, meetings, battle drills, flight operations and briefings in addition to legal work. Rieke advises the ship’s commanding officer and executive officer, manages a staff of seven, and handles investigations into misconduct, claims for and against the Navy, and congressional inquiries. He also manages the trial and nonjudicial punishment dockets, administrative separation procedures, and works with NCIS on criminal investigations.

Rieke said that taking trial advocacy at Stetson and interning for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa, under the direction of a retired Army JAG, fostered a love for practicing law. Rieke also did an internship with a federal judge and took a wide range of classes at Stetson. He said the breadth of the education and experience helped him thrive as a Navy JAG, a role he said he relishes.

Rieke shared his appreciation for military leadership. “If there is one unique thing about the military, it is the accountability of its leaders. No matter what happens, no matter where, there is always one man or woman who bears responsibility,” Rieke said. “This is one of the reasons why being an officer is such a great profession. A clear line of responsibility and accountability not only inspires, but requires and demands good leadership.”