Alumni Spotlight: Cindiemarie Blair '05
Major Cindiemarie Blair ’05 has already undertaken a legal career that attorneys who have been part of the legal profession for decades longer have yet to experience.
Major Blair’s post-law school career has taken her from California to Iraq to Virginia, and will take her to Hawaii in the summer. Since graduating from Boyd in May 2005 magna cum laude, Major Blair has served as a judge advocate in the United States Marine Corps. She has been admitted to the bars for the State of Nevada, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and the United States Supreme Court. A Marine since 1993, Major Blair began her legal career at Twentynine Palms, California where she was the senior defense counsel. She represented Marines facing charges for a variety of offenses and was able to ensure they received due process. One of the most rewarding aspects of representing enlisted men and women was that Major Blair was able to help people who made sacrifices themselves to serve their country but made some bad choices.
During law school, Major Blair worked as a prosecuting judge advocate in the summers but serving as defense counsel provided her with a different perspective. Major Blair’s service as senior defense counsel wasn’t her first foray into criminal defense. During law school, she was a student attorney in the Capital Defense Clinic at the Thomas & Mack Legal Clinic, where she was recognized with a CALI (the award for the highest grade in the class) in the spring of 2004.
From January 2008 to February 2009, Major Blair deployed to Al Taqqadum, Iraq as the Military Justice Officer and Assistant Officer in Charge of the Legal Services Support Team-Iraq. In that capacity, Major Blair performed a number of legal functions. She processed claims from Iraqi civilians who sought compensation from the United States government for injuries or property damage caused by the United States’ military operations. Major Blair also prosecuted Marines for crimes they committed while deployed in Iraq. Additionally, Major Blair provided assistance and advice to individual servicemembers regarding legal issues they were facing back home, including divorce, taxes, consumer fraud, child custody, and much more. With all of the pressures that servicemembers faced in Iraq, Major Blair found assisting them with stateside legal issues to be gratifying since it relieved some of their burden and allowed them to concentrate on the mission at hand. Major Blair says it was rewarding “seeing them walk out relieved because they were able to get some help.”
Another component of Major Blair’s service in Iraq was training. Major Blair developed and conducted redeployment classes for Marines who would be leaving Iraq. The redeployment classes taught enrollees budget management skills, made them aware of the increased risk they faced regarding identity theft, and assisted them with preparing for the day-to-day legal issues they would now be facing upon return to the United States.
Additionally, Major Blair conducted Rule of Engagement and Law of War classes to educate Marines about their duties under military and international law during armed conflicts and conducted classes on non-judicial punishment and administrative measures to ensure newly promoted leaders knew what punishments were lawful.
In Iraq, Major Blair also served on the Multi-National Force Review Committee at Camp Bucca, a Theater Internment Facility. During her time on the panel, she (along with two other officers who made up the panel) met with over 100 detainees and after reviewing their files, she provided recommendations on whether the detainee should face continued internment based on the detainee’s present security threat posed to either Multi-National Forces, the Iraq government, or its citizens.
Additionally, Major Blair participated in census patrol missions with the Iraqi Women’s Engagement Team. She met with groups of Iraqi women to consult with them about their personal needs, the needs of the town, and upcoming elections. While visiting these towns, the Marines provided the local children with toys and the women with much needed toiletries and other gifts. Major Blair’s favorite part of her tour of duty in Iraq was these missions because she says it is “great to work with the local populace and be able to help, even if just a little bit . . . . [They are] good people and not very different from us. They were very gracious and welcoming; they opened their homes to us and even cooked us meals.”
Major Blair’s contributions to the Marine Corps and the mission in Iraq were many; one of the most tangible contributions Major Blair made was to create a Standard Operating Procedure for the Special Immigration Status Visa Program for Iraqi Translators, which is still in use. As a result of her accomplishments during her 13-month tour of duty overseas, Major Blair received a Navy Commendation Medal.
In February 2009, Major Blair redeployed to Twentynine Palms and served as the Military Justice Officer where she supervised three attorneys and prosecuted violations of military law. Major Blair’s prior experience as senior defense counsel provided her with a better understanding of the situations Marines find themselves in which allowed her to negotiate pre-trial agreements that better served the interests of the Marine Corps, the individual Marines and their commanders.
Major Blair is now pursuing her LLM in general military law at the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville. Her expected graduation date is May 20, 2010. Major Blair’s paper requirement is a primer on identity theft and servicemembers.
Entitled “Solutions for Victims of Identity Theft: A guide for judge advocates to assist servicemembers in deterring, detecting, and defending against this growing epidemic,” Major Blair’s paper addresses how judge advocates should deal with identity theft, discusses the higher risks for identity theft to deployed servicemembers, and the resources and agencies that are available to assist in preventing and redressing identity theft. Major Blair’s interest in the topic arose out of her experience advising servicemembers in Iraq who were dealing with issues of consumer fraud and identity theft.
For Major Blair, the LLM is important to help her become more well-rounded for a career in which her duties can change annually. As Major Blair states, “the Marines are not looking for specialists, we do it all.” As a result, Major Blair has found that her legal career so far has challenged her and helped her grow as an attorney. Moreover being a Marine has meant that she must meet the high physical fitness standards the Marine Corps requires. Major Blair has also been on the All-Marine Volleyball team and played in the Armed Forces Tournament three times, in 2001, 2006, and 2009.
Major Blair’s next assignment will be at the Pacific Command in Hawaii. She will be working in a joint environment with other services practicing international law.
Major Blair hasn’t made up her mind on her future career plans, although she will be eligible for retirement at the end of her command duty in Hawaii. Given the wide range of experience she has already accumulated and the number of other billets and locations the military has to offer, her potential opportunities seem endless.