Billy Wilkins Named to Panel Studying Issues in Military Justice

January 27, 2009

GREENVILLE, S – January 27, 2009 – William W. Billy Wilkins, the former Chief Judge of the U.S. Fourth Circuit who now heads three practice groups at Nexsen Pruet, has been named to the Cox Commission, an independent panel that will study issues in military justice.

In addition to being one of the nation’s most respected jurists – Wilkins was President Ronald Reagan’s first selection to the federal bench and the first chairman of the U.S. Sentencing Commission – he served 27 years in the U.S. Army (active and reserves) and in the South Carolina National Guard.

Wilkins spent 14 years as a member of the Judge Advocate General Corps of the Army Reserves and 11 years as the State Judge Advocate for the S.C. National Guard. He has received numerous citations and awards, including the prestigious Legion of Merit for meritorious service, and holds the retired rank of Brigadier General.

Wilkins joined Nexsen Pruet in October 2008 after taking senior status on the Fourth Circuit. He leads the firm’s White Collar Crime, Appellate Advocacy, and Corporate Compliance/Crisis Management practices. He is also actively involved with the Business Litigation Group.

The Cox Commission will examine the current operation of the military justice system and consider whether the Uniform Code of Military Justice is meeting the needs of the military services to provide an efficient, fair way to insure good order and discipline while also serving the criminal justice goals of a democratic society.  It will submit a report to the President, Congress, the Department of Defense, and its sponsoring organizations.

In making its assessment, the Commission will solicit ideas and suggestions from civilian and military attorneys; military commanders and non-commissioned officers; bar associations; law schools; groups with special interest in military matters; and the general public. Plans include facilitating public participation through a wide range of resources, including a website or blog and at least one public hearing.

The Commission will be chaired by the Hon. Walter T. Cox III, former Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

Wilkins first gained national recognition in 1981 when Reagan appointed him to the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, the president’s first selection to the federal bench.

Four years later, Reagan named him chair of the newly created United States Sentencing Commission, a position Wilkins held until 1994. As head of the commission, he was responsible for establishing sentencing guidelines, policies, and practices for the federal criminal court system.

In 1986, Wilkins was appointed United States Circuit Judge for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which encompasses North and South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland.  In 1999, he was named chair of the Committee on Criminal Law for the federal judiciary by then-Chief Justice of the United States William Rehnquist. In 2003, Wilkins was elevated to Chief Judge of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, a position he held until taking senior status in July 2007.

Wilkins also served six years as solicitor of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit of South Carolina. During that period, he organized the state’s first Victim-Witness Assistance Program, which was later recognized as one of the nation’s best by the National Organization for Victim Assistance Programs and the National Institute of Justice.  He also created the first Child Abuse Prosecution Unit and the first Pretrial Diversion Program in the Palmetto State.

About Nexsen Pruet

Nexsen Pruet, LLC is one of the largest law firms in the Carolinas, with more than 170 attorneys and offices in Columbia, Charleston, Greenville, Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Charlotte, Greensboro, and Raleigh, N. C.  Founded in 1945, Nexsen Pruet provides a broad range of legal services to the business community and represents companies from other entities in local, state, national and international venues.