Bethany L. Payton-O’Brien

Bethany Payton-O’Brien is well-versed in military justice issues and has won major victories for Soldiers, Sailors, Airman, Marines, Coast Guardsman, and employees of numerous federal agencies. She is a retired military trial and appellate judge and she has been practicing military and criminal law for 25 years. She served in the United States Navy for almost 23 years. Since her retirement in 2017, she has been in private practice providing legal representation to military members (active, reservists, ROTC students, and former members), civilian employees, contractors, and retirees.

Beth has law offices in San Diego, CA and Chicago, IL where her practice is focused on military and security clearance matters, including litigation, criminal law, ROTC disenrollment hearings, and administrative law (NJP, administrative boards, medical privileging boards, letters of reprimand, IG investigations). She can represent clients before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, the Board of Veterans Appeals, as well as all military review boards, appellate courts and trial courts.

Bethany L. Payton-O’Brien

She served the Navy as a member of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG), achieving the rank of Captain. Prior to her retirement from the Navy, she served for nine years in the Navy’s judicial system.  She served as the Senior Military Judge for the Navy-Marine Corps Trial Judiciary, Southwest District, Western Judicial Circuit, in San Diego, CA and she served as a Senior Appellate Judge on the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals.  As a judge, she adjudicated over 700 felony and misdemeanor criminal cases, including:

  • Sexual assault, child pornography, child molestation
  • Domestic abuse
  • Fraud, larceny, and property crimes
  • Drug cases (use, possession, distribution, positive urinalysis)
  • Officer misconduct
  • Recruiter misconduct and recruit abuse
  • Aggravated assault
  • Burglary
  • Military-specific crimes (AWOL, disrespect, malingering, missing movement)

Prior to her judicial assignments in the Navy, she prosecuted and defended military members in over 150 felony and misdemeanor cases, with offenses ranging from larceny to murder. She has served as Legal Counsel to numerous Admirals during her career, including Commander Navy Region Northwest and Commander Submarine Group TWO. In those roles, she advised the flag officers on ethics, administrative and criminal law, and operational law issues. Beth is well-versed in military justice issues and have won major victories for Soldiers, Sailors, Airman, Marines, Coast Guardsman, and employees of numerous federal agencies.

Education

  • LL.M., Trial Advocacy, 2008, California Western School of Law
  • J.D., 1994, DePaul College of Law
  • Bachelor of Arts, 1989, Wayne State University
  • Certificate of Judicial Development (General Jurisdiction Trial Skills), 2017, National Judicial College

Teaching

  • Military Law Symposium (Trial Advocacy), Mexico City, Mexico
  • Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals and Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals
  • Military Law Symposium (Military Laws and Practice; Armed Forces and Internal Security), Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar, India

Publications

  • “Guns Don’t Kill – Games, Movies, Books and Songs Do: The Prosecution’s Continued Quest to Blame Something Else,” Federal Criminal Defense Journal, Fall 2008, Vol. 1

Court & Bar Admissions

  • Illinois
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
  • Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals
  • Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals

Military Personal Awards

  • Legion of Merit (2 awards)
  • Meritorious Service Medal (2 awards)
  • Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal (5 awards)
  • Navy Achievement Medal
  • Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal