3L Coast Guard Officer to Make Criminal Law Impact on the Ocean with Law Degree


If the adage is true that an army travels on their stomach, perhaps Brian Sattler is on to something. Everywhere the 31-year-old Coast Guard Officer is stationed, he masters one dish quintessential to the region – chicken and Andouille sausage gumbo in New Orleans, the popular Korean meat jun in Hawaii, and carne asada burrito with homemade guacamole in San Diego.

Don't think the third-year law student with an interest in maritime law and criminal law is just a pretty face with mad cooking skills. Since his graduation from the United States Coast Guard Academy in 2006, he has served as the lead Counter Narcotics Law Enforcement Officer, Navigator, Search and Rescue Planner, Operations Center Supervisor, Public Affairs Officer, and most recently a Policy and Programs Officer at the U.S. Pacific Command for the Joint Interagency Task Force West.

Growing up in Silver Spring, Maryland, Sattler's float plan for life did not include the Coast Guard or law school. His grandparents worked at the Pentagon, and his grandfather – a WWII Navy veteran – had given him a flyer for the Coast Guard Academy when Sattler was in middle school. The flyer gathered dust until it was time to start applying to colleges.
"I saw it on my bookshelf one day and thought, 'this has been there for a long time, I'll give the Coast Guard some serious consideration,'" Sattler said. "I also applied to nine liberal arts colleges and, when I got all my acceptance letters, I weighed out that if I went to a liberal arts school to study history I am going to have debt. If I go to law school, I am going to have more debt. If I attend the Academy, I can major in government, which is kind of like history. It's free, and you have a job after.”
"If I don't like it, I can always leave," he thought. "But after learning more about the incredible things the Coast Guard does every day and opportunities I would have during my career I fell in love with the organization. Not to mention the incredible friendships I made helped cement my conviction that the Coast Guard was for me."
Sattler is not the only "Coastie" to feel that way and end up at Miami Law. Of the 331 attorneys – both active duty and civilian – currently in the Coast Guard, 15 are Miami Law alums. Vice Admiral Charles Michel, J.D. '92, became the Vice Commandant of the 225-year-old maritime service in August, the second in command of the entire fleet. The more than 1,948 ships, cutters, and aircraft responded to over 17,000 Search and Rescue cases, saved 3,430 lives and more than $47 million in property in 2015.
The top lawyer is Coast Guard Judge Advocate General Rear Admiral Steve Poulin, J.D. '92; the Staff Judge Advocate for the Pacific Area (the Pacific half of the Coast Guard) Commander is Captain Joseph Kramek, J.D. '00; and Captain James Carlson, J.D. '01, is the Staff Judge Advocate for the Seventh District Commander (the area that covers the Southeast U.S. and the entire Caribbean).
Sattler has distinguished himself as well, both at the Coast Guard and at Miami Law. The three-semester Dean’s List recipient was awarded Commandant of the Cadet's List for outstanding military performance for five semesters at the Academy in New London, Connecticut, and was on the Cadet Honor Council. At Miami Law, he was awarded Outstanding Oral Advocate for Legal Writing and Communications, the Dean’s Certificate of Achievement Award in Criminal Procedure Adjudication, and is active in both the Military and Maritime Law Societies. It is not surprising that Sattler is a joint degree student; he is an LL.M. candidate in Ocean & Coast Law.
It wasn't until Sattler was at sea aboard the Cutter Hamilton engaging in counter-narcotics patrols off Central and South America that he definitively settled on a career in law.
"You are in the middle of the ocean going 35 knots, chasing down a boat that is carrying loads of cocaine, and you've got a helicopter on top of your that is shooting a machine gun and it is all very exciting," he said. "But I realized that the impact of what I was doing on the ocean depended heavily on what happens in the courtroom while the smugglers are on trial. If the attorney does not have a strong case, the smugglers are just going back to trafficking, and we do it all over again. I wanted to be a part of the process at the next level; ensuring that the smugglers are held accountable."
Sattler is on target to graduate in May. He “is hoping to be assigned to a legal office that provides a variety of legal services to Coast Guard units, including criminal prosecution, administrative, and operational law.” However, he still owes the world a culinary entry from Miami. "Maybe vaca frita," he said. "Or maybe I will try something with fish. I don't think I've found a good conch fritter yet."

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