Monday, June 16, 2003

Another HLS Overachiever

This guy is one of my classmates from Harvard Law:
Young Army lawyer helping Iraq rebuild its judicial system

TIKRIT, Iraq – No one ever said the practice of law is easy.

Mike D'Annunzio wears body armor to work. He carries an automatic rifle for protection. And, three years out of law school, he oversees the judicial system in a significant portion of Iraq.

Despite the many complications to be overcome in postwar, post-Saddam Iraq, getting the courts up and running is seen as a critical step toward creating a more benign and democratic society. Capt. D'Annunzio, the staff judge advocate for the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade, spearheads that effort in Salah ad-Din Province.

The Harvard-educated wunderkind, who skipped high school and earned his law degree by age 21, didn't expect to take on such a prominent role in restoring justice to Iraq, specifically in a province that was once Saddam Hussein's power base.

Capt. D'Annunzio admits there's a steep learning curve, given that Iraqi criminal and civil procedure weren't an integral part of his legal education. As an Army lawyer, he was much more familiar with the intricacies of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. But he's not disappointed at the direction his military career has taken.

"It's been a great experience so far," said Capt. D'Annunzio, 24, of Gig Harbor, Wash. "What attracted me to the job in the first place was, frankly, the corporate jobs in the skyscrapers downtown seemed awfully boring. Now, sometimes, I sit here in the dirt wearing my flak vest, drinking lukewarm bottled water, and eating MREs [Meals Ready to Eat] and think to myself, 'Gee, that job in the skyscraper downtown looks pretty good right now.'

"But the fact is, I'm sitting here as a 24-year-old attorney, three years out of law school, and I've just basically put back into operation the justice system for an entire province of a country – and that's an experience not many people of my age and training and experience get to have."
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I'll say.


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