Chief Justice Weisberger Visiting Professor of Law David Coombs joined the RWU Law faculty in 2014. He teaches criminal procedure and coaches the RWU Trial Team. Professor Coombs also serves as the faculty advisor to the Military Law Society, a student-run organization dedicated to raising visibility and promoting knowledge and awareness of military law issues affecting students, law professionals and member of America’s Armed Forces.
Professor Coombs is an internationally respected trial attorney and expert on military law. He served as the lead defense counsel in the highly publicized case of United States v. PFC Bradley E. Manning, the Soldier who provided classified information to Wikileaks. He continues to represent PFC Manning, who is now known as Chelsea Manning, in her fight for appropriate medical care for her gender dysphoria and in her efforts to receive parole.
He has spoken on topics of national security law, classified information, military courts-martial, freedom of the press, and gender dysphoria rights at universities and on national and international media programs. He recently appeared on the Today Show to discuss his representation of Chelsea Manning and spoke at Harvard Law School on national security law.
Prior to joining the RWU faculty, Professor Coombs served for over 13 years on active duty in the U.S. Army JAG Corps. Professor Coombs prosecuted and defended over 130 cases while on active duty. As a defense counsel, he achieved numerous acquittals and tried several high profile cases for the Army. He served as the Army’s first senior capital defense counsel and tried the death penalty case of United States v. SGT Hasan K. Akbar.
In 2006, he became a professor at the U.S. Army JAG Legal Center and School in Charlottesville, Virginia. He taught evidence, capital litigation, high profile cases, trial advocacy, criminal procedure and criminal law. While on faculty, Professor Coombs was selected to deploy to Iraq in support of the Law and Order Task Force in Baghdad as a judicial advisor in 2008. He mentored and assisted 16 Iraqi prosecutors and 27 investigative judges to help build essential Iraqi capacity for independent, evidence-based and transparent adjudication of cases. He also developed and implemented a case management system that allowed the Baghdad court to track, monitor and manage its caseload of over 1,600 criminal cases.
Following his return to the U.S., Professor Coombs transitioned from the active duty military to the reserves. He has served for the last five years as a reserve judge advocate. He is currently a Lieutenant Colonel and working with the Army’s Defense Appellate Division representing Soldiers on appeal to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and the Supreme Court of the United States.
Professor Coombs also started a successful military criminal defense practice in April of 2009. His criminal practice specializes in representing Army Soldiers and he represents Soldiers no matter where in the world their court-martial is tried. As part of his criminal defense practice, he has represented Soldiers faced with crimes from simple larceny to premeditated murder. Although scaling back the number of clients that he will accept, Professor Coombs will continue his civilian criminal practice while on faculty.
Through over 17 years of military service, Professor Coombs received seven Meritorious Service Medals, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, and the Overseas Service Ribbon.
United States v. Blazier – So Exactly Who Needs an Invitation to the Dance, The Army Lawyer, July 2010, at 15
Pass Go, Collect $200.00, and Hire Yourself an Expert – Article 46 and the Right to Expert Assistance, The Army Lawyer, June 2008, at 28
Uncharged Misconduct - The Edge is Never Dull, The Army Lawyer, May 2007, at 18