Defense Services Organization
Defense Services Organization Official Logo
United States Marine Corps
"Marines Defending Marines"

The Marine Corps Defense Services Organization (DSO) is a global criminal defense law firm comprised of more than 70 Marine judge advocates and legal service support staff who are passionate about defending Marines at courts-martial, boards of inquiry, and administrative separation boards. We put our clients first – above our own careers, the interests of the command, and Marine Corps. We leverage our years of experience in fighting – and winning – hard battles against the government to help achieve the best possible results for our clients. While no attorney can guarantee you a result, if you are a Marine accused, there is no better team in your corner than the DSO.

We are Marines - Judge Advocates and Legal Services Specialists - who are dedicated to defending our fellow Marines and Sailors, by providing them legal counsel in any matter required by statute, regulation, or otherwise authorized. We are zealous advocates for our clients, serving independently of the local chain of command and under the supervision of the Marine Corps Defense Services Organization. We zealously represent each and every client within the guidelines of the law, consistent with our professional ethics, and in accordance with our rules of practice. We selflessly perform our duties with the utmost integrity, motivation and pride, without fear of reprisal, or expectation of professional or personal gain. In the same spirit as “Taking Care of Our Own,” we are: “Marines Defending Marines.”

The DSO is led by the Chief Defense Counsel of the Marine Corps. Each region is led by a Regional Defense Counsel and each branch office is led by a Senior Defense Counsel. The DSO also has a Defense Counsel Assistance Program (DCAP), which has now fully integrated Ms. Kate Coyne, Attorney Advisors in complex and sexual assault litigation. The AA expertise and accessibility have significantly increased DCAP's ability to provide timely, relevant advice and training to counsel across the globe.

(703) 697-3634


Mailing Address
Office of the Chief Defense Counsel of the Marine Corps
755 S. Courthouse Road, Building 2, Suite 1000
Arlington, VA 22204-2482

If you need to reach a branch office, please visit its respective page for the contact information.  We have offices across the globe at most major Marine Corps installations, broken down into four regions.

*For Reserve Legal Support, please contact the MCB Quantico branch office. 

The Office of the Chief Defense Counsel (CDC) does not provide any walk-in services.

The nearest DSO Branch Office that provides walk-in services is the MCB Quantico Branch Office.

Directions to the CDC's Office from the South (Ft Belvoir)

  • I-95 North to I-395 North

  • Take Exit 8A to merge onto VA-27 West/S. Washington Blvd

  • Merge onto VA-244 W/Columbia Pike via the ramp to Bailey's Crossroads

  • Turn right onto S. Courthouse Rd

  • Turn right into NSF-Arlington and present ID 

Directions to the CDC's Office from DC (Navy Yard/Andrews AFB)

  • I-695 South to I-395 South

  • Take Exit 8A to merge onto S. Washington Blvd

  • Exit onto 2nd St South

  • Merge onto VA-244 W/Columbia Pike via the ramp to Bailey's Crossroads

  • Turn right onto S. Courthouse Rd

  • Turn right into NSF-Arlington and present ID

The Defense Services Organization zealously defends Marines and Sailors facing disciplinary action in order to safeguard the Rights of those who safeguard our nation.


We are “Marines Defending Marines” and we are good at what we do:  providing zealous, ethical and effective defense counsel services. Each year, on average, the Marine Corps Defense Services Organization (DSO) represents over 1,100 clients at courts-martial and administrative separations and litigates over 150 contested courts-martials, where the client pleads “not guilty” to at least one charge, and over 500 contested administrative separation boards.  The DSO takes every effort to assign the right case to the right attorney, leveraging the resources of our global criminal defense law firm.  If you are a client of the DSO, you can trust that your detailed defense attorney, supported and advised by experienced, proven supervisory attorneys, is prepared to get you the best possible outcome.  In addition, you have the opportunity to request an Individual Military Counsel - a uniformed attorney of your own choosing – be assigned to your case and you can also hire a civilian defense attorney, at your own cost, if you so desire.

Professional Independence

The DSO is a functionally independent organization.  While we are administratively part of Legal Services Support Sections at our respective locations, each defense branch office and the attorneys and support staff assigned at each branch office are under the supervision and operational control of their Senior and Regional Defense Counsel.  The Senior Defense Counsel and Regional Defense Counsel in turn are responsible and accountable to the Chief Defense Counsel of the Marine Corps for the delivery of defense counsel services at their location.  Similarly, fitness reports for military defense lawyers follow this chain of supervision with defense lawyers’ fitness reports written by their Senior Defense Counsel; Senior Defense Counsel fitness reports written by their Regional Defense Counsel; and Regional Defense Counsel fitness reports written by the Chief Defense Counsel.


You can trust that what is said in private to your detailed defense attorney will remain private.   Communications made in private to a lawyer are covered by a protection called the attorney-client privilege. This means that these communications cannot be introduced into evidence in a trial by court-martial.  Additionally, our lawyers and enlisted support staff do not reveal whether a servicemember is currently talking to a defense attorney or has talked to an attorney in the past. We have a strict set of rules that prohibit us from divulging what our clients tell us.  (See Rule of Professional Conduct 1.6, JAGINST. 5803.1D.)  There are two exceptions to this rule which refer to (1) when a lawyer suspects a client of intent to commit a crime likely to result in imminent death or substantial bodily harm and (2) litigation between an attorney and a client.  Attorneys who violate the Rules of Professional Conduct may be subject to disciplinary action. 

However, if you talk to someone other than your detailed defense attorney about your case, it is possible that the government could force that person to testify against you at trial. This includes physicians, nurses, journalists, substance abuse counselors, social workers, parents/children, spouses, partners, girlfriends/boyfriends, roommates, co-workers, your Commanding Officer, your Platoon Sergeant, etc.

The scope of our legal services is limited to advising and representing uniformed servicemembers facing administrative, non-judicial and judicial actions. This includes administrative separations, boards of inquiry, non-judicial punishment, and trials by court-martial.

We do not provide legal advice regarding debt relief, divorces, child custody, leases, property law, contracts, etc. You can find legal advice regarding those issues at your local Legal Assistance office. We do not provide any legal services to dependents of uniformed servicemembers, and we do not represent uniformed servicemembers in civilian courts.

Civilian attorneys representing active duty or reserve Marines in either civil or criminal cases are encouraged to contact the Regional Defense Counsel in order to obtain information or assistance that may benefit their clients' cases. Please visit the respective page linked above for the region where your client is located.

2018-2019 Col William N. Pigott, Jr.

2016-2018 Col Jonathan W. Hitesman

2014-2016 Col Stephen C. Newman

2013-2014 Col Joseph R. Perlak

2010-2013 Col John G. Baker

2007-2010 Col Rose Marie Favors

2005-2007 Col Carol K. Joyce

2004-2005 Col Ralph F. Miller

2001-2004 Col Calvin L. Scovel III

2000-2001 Col Kevin M. Sandkuhler

1997-2000 Col Harvey A. Hopson

1994-1997 Col Robert E. Hilton

Defense Services Organization Leaders

Chief Defense Counsel
United States Marine Corps

Colonel John Stephens received his B.A. in History with Honors from the University of North

Read Biography

Deputy Chief Defense Counsel
Defense Services Organization

Read Biography

Reserve Legal Support
Defense Services Organization

Colonel Terri R. Zimmermann graduated with a B.A. with Honors in Government from the University of

Read Biography

It is DSO policy that legal advice may not be given over the telephone to a prospective defense client or through third parties calling on behalf of the prospective client.

Certain emergency circumstances or prospective clients at remote locations will be addressed individually. Servicemembers who are unable to appear at our walk-in hours should call the office for further guidance.

Marine Corps Defense Services Organization