“Caring about the law means caring about individuals because individuals are the ones impacted by the law,” says Associate Professor Justin G. Holbrook
, the Director of Widener’s Veterans Law Clinic
, who hopes to instill that philosophy in his students. “When I think about a legal rule, I want to think about how it impacts the individuals who will be affected by that rule,” he explains.
“I’m completely energized by the teaching process and its focus on critical thinking and rigorous analysis,” he says, adding that he aims to train students to “approach legal issues cautiously, creatively, and courageously.” Professor Holbrook cited this as the main reason he enjoys working with students on their oral and written advocacy skills, whether in one-on-one meetings or coaching moot court teams representing Widener Law School in competition.
Widener’s support of the military and veterans played a central role in attracting Professor Holbrook, who came to Widener in July of 2010 following six years as an active duty judge advocate in the United States Air Force. He deployed twice in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom and also served as Chief of Military Justice and Chief of International Law at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan. He is currently a reservist in the United States Air Force.
Beyond interacting with his students, he also hopes he can contribute to the world of ideas through his scholarship. He has particular interests in international comparative law, military and veterans law, and criminal law. His work on a variety of rule of law initiatives overseas led him to explore “broader issues of legal plurality and hybrid legal systems” in the Philippines, a topic he recently addressed at the Third Congress of the World Society of Mixed Jurisdiction Jurists in Jerusalem, Israel. Moving forward, he hopes to look at the value of the law in resolving normative conflicts through hybrid legal systems operating at “both the national and supra-national levels.”
Professor Holbrook has also conducted extensive research into the veterans court movement in the United States, including leading the first national survey into the effectiveness of such courts in treating veterans and reducing recidivism rates. “The research suggests that the criminal justice system would benefit if stakeholders consider the unique needs of veterans who find themselves in court, especially those impacted by combat trauma after a deployment.” While criminal misconduct should not be excused, the justice system should “approach traumatized veterans with an eye toward rehabilitation rather than simply toward punishment.”
“At the end of the day, the law is about helping people. It brings tremendous satisfaction if something that I’ve worked on contributes, even in a small way, to that goal,” Holbrook concludes.