Yellow Ribbon Series: Hugh B. Pearce
Former student Hugh B. Pearce left behind a lasting legacy.
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Military Service and the Law
Ralph Kohlmann

A proud participant in the Yellow Ribbon GI Bill Program, Widener Law is committed to providing a positive learning environment to the dedicated service members of the United States armed forces. The Yellow Ribbon series highlights the students, faculty, and programs that connect the Widener Law community with the brave veterans who have served their country so admirably.

Already a member of the United States Marine Corps when he came to the Delaware School of Law at Widener University, New Jersey native Ralph H. Kohlmann ’87, took his assignment to study the law seriously. Dedication to his studies paid off for the career officer, who now serves as Circuit Judge of the Eastern Judicial Circuit of the Navy-Marine Corps Trial Judiciary seated in Camp Lejeune, NC. In addition, in March of 2007, he was appointed Chief Judge of the Military Commissions Trial Judiciary at the Naval Base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

He began his military career as a combat engineer, serving as platoon and detachment commander and company executive officer in 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Force Service Support Group. He later served as company executive officer and company commander in the 3d Combat Engineer Battalion, 3d Marine Division.

Colonel Kohlmann graduated summa cum laude with his Juris Doctor from the Delaware School of Law at Widener University, where he met his wife, Lynneth Ann Schaffenberg, who also graduated in 1987. During his time at Widener, he participated in Law Review, serving as the Editor in Chief of volume 12 of the Delaware Journal of Corporate Law. He was also active in the Moot Court Honor Society and participated in the tax law clinic.

A member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, Kohlmann also received a Master of Law in Military Law from The Judge Advocate General’s School, U.S. Army, in Charlottesville, Virginia in 1994 and a Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies from the United States Naval War College in 2002. From 1998-2001, he served as a Military Judge, a position he has again held since 2005. Colonel Kohlmann has also served as Trial Counsel, Senior Defense Counsel, Executive Secretary and USMC Working Group Member for Joint Service Committee on Military Justice, and a Faculty Member in the Criminal Law Department of The Judge Advocate General’s School, U.S. Army.

Colonel Kohlmann was appointed to preside over Binyam Mohammed’s trial under the first military commission system created to try detainees held at Guantánamo Naval Base as enemy combatants, but that commission was struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. When Congress created the new military commission system in March of 2007, he was appointed Chief Judge. He presided over the case of United States v. Hicks, which was the first completed Military Commissions case since the Nuremberg Trials, and served as the presiding judge in the case of United States v. Khalid Sheik Mohammed, et al involving several alleged 9-11 co-conspirators.