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California Western Alumnus Appointed to Oversee U.S. Military War Court

Vice Admiral Bruce E. MacDonald '87 (Ret.)

Last week, Secretary of Defense Robert E. Gates appointed retired Navy Vice Adm. Bruce E. MacDonald ’87 to the position of convening authority for military commissions. Among other responsibilities the retired three-star admiral will oversee the military’s war court.

“California Western joins in celebrating Vice Adm. MacDonald’s appointment to this very important and sensitive position,” says Dean Steven R. Smith. “His decorated military career and outstanding leadership as an attorney combines a commitment to justice and the highest principles of the legal profession. We are proud of his achievement and wish him the best in this new position.”

Navy Vice Adm. Bruce E. MacDonald

MacDonald was selected for the U.S. Navy Law Education Program, graduating from California Western in 1987. He served a 23-year naval career, culminating with an appointment as Navy Judge Advocate General from 2006-2009. MacDonald was on the staffs of U.N. Command, Combined Forces Command, and U.S. Naval Forces in Korea. He retired in August of 2009.

MacDonald’s many decorations include the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Navy Meritorious Service Medal with Gold Star, the Navy Commendation Medal with Gold Star, and the Navy Achievement Medal with Gold Star.

Tradition of JAG Excellence

MacDonald’s recent appointment is reflective of a rich tradition of legal service by California Western alumni to the U.S. military. In 2006, when MacDonald began his post as Navy Judge Advocate General, he joined fellow California Western alumni Maj. Gen. Scott C. Black ’80 and Brig. Gen. Kevin M. Sandkuhler, heads of the Army JAG Corps and Marine Judge Advocates, respectively, at the very top of their chosen professions.

The timing of three alumni from the same law school concurrently serving in three top military lawyer positions at the Pentagon was an unprecedented achievement.

 “I find it remarkable,” says MacDonald. “Who would have thought that the three of us would be in these positions at the same time?”

Convening Authority

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, the position of convening authority was created by Congress in the Military Commissions Act. In the position, MacDonald is responsible for overseeing many aspects of the military commission process and the administration of the Office of Military Commissions. Among other things, he will review and approve charges against persons determined to be unprivileged belligerents, appoint military commissions members, and review military commissions' verdicts and sentences.