D17 LEGAL STAFF
CDR Christopher F. Coutu currently serves as the Staff Judge Advocate for Coast Guard District 17, located in Juneau, Alaska. He arrived in Juneau in July 2016. D17 encompasses the entire Alaskan maritime region.
Prior to this assignment, from 2013 to 2016, CDR Coutu was the Chief of the Suspension and Revocation National Center of Expertise (S&R NCOE), located in Martinsburg, WV and co-located with the National Maritime Center. The S&R NCOE is responsible for providing high quality marine safety and legal advice to units nationwide regarding marine personnel investigations and S&R proceedings.
CDR Coutu also served as the Deputy Chief in the Office of Claims and Litigation (CG-0945) from August 2010 to July 2013; Trial Attorney at the Department of Justice (Aviation and Admiralty Division) from July 2008 to July 2010; Senior Investigating Officer at Marine Safety Unit Port Arthur, TX, from August 2005 to June 2008; and as a Judge Advocate and assistant Staff Judge Advocate with the First District Legal Office from 2001 to 2005. While assigned to the First District Legal Office, CDR Coutu served as an Investigating Officer for both Marine Safety Offices Providence and Boston for various administrative licensing proceedings.
LCDR Stevens received her commission as a Reservist in 2004 and reported to her first assignment as a Marine Casualty Investigator at Sector San Diego, CA. Upon graduation from law school and completion of the California Bar Exam in February 2007, LCDR Stevens transitioned to active duty, filling a position with the International Port Security (IPS) Program at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, DC. In addition to providing administrative support to the IPSP, LCDR Stevens traveled to Cape Verde and the Republic of Georgia in her capacity as an International Port Security Specialist and hosted international delegates during their visits to the United States. LCDR Stevens was then assigned to the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) Program where she assisted with the implementation of the TWIC program and in formulating the Coast Guard’s enforcement guidance and procedures.
LCDR Stevens became a U.S. Coast Guard Legal Specialist in 2008 and began her legal career as a criminal defense attorney while assigned at the Navy Legal Service Office (NLSO), Washington, DC. In 2009, LCDR Stevens advocated on behalf of Coast Guard members as an Appellate Defense Counsel in the office of Defense and Legal Services (CG-094M) where her duties focused on providing appellate advocacy before the U.S. Coast Guard Court of Criminal Appeals and the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. In 2010, LCDR Stevens was assigned to the office of Maritime and International Law where she acted as counsel in the Operations Law Group, tending to a wide range of real-time operational law issues and provided legal support to the Office of Counter Terrorism and Defense. In June 2014, LCDR Stevens finished a three year assignment as a Special Assistant United States Attorney in the criminal division at the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, prosecuting over 600 cases, primarily for violations of Federal Immigration and Maritime Drug Trafficking laws. She was assigned to the Deputy Chief for the Office of Special Victims’ Counsel where her responsibilities include providing legal support to victims of sexual assault offenses and supervisory guidance to full time and collateral duty SVCs. LCDR Stevens reported to the District 17 Legal Office in Juneau, AK June 2017, where she assumed the responsibilities as the Deputy Staff Judge Advocate.
Lieutenant Sharyl Pels serves as a staff attorney in the Seventeenth District legal office. She provides counsel to the District Commander and to the commands of Air Station Kodiak and the District’s buoy tenders. Her duties included representing the United States in military justice cases at all levels of appellate review, and advising field level staff judge advocates and trial counsel on a variety of military justice matters. At her previous unit, LT Pels served in the Office of Military Justice at U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Lieutenant Steven Caouette currently serves as a Staff Attorney in the Seventeenth Coast Guard District Legal Office. Lieutenant Caouette’s primary responsibilities include advising District 17 client commands on a wide range of issues including military justice, personnel, ethics, information law, and response law, as well as providing legal assistance to Coast Guard members and dependents in the Juneau area. Previously, Lieutenant Caouette served as a trial counsel in the Military Justice Division of the Coast Guard Legal Service Command in Norfolk, VA.
Richard "Rich" K. Harris joined the D17 legal team as its Kodiak-based legal assistance attorney in July 2009. As the Coasties’ attorney, provides free legal assistance to eligible beneficiaries throughout Alaska pursuant to COMDTINST 5801.4E in the areas of estate planning, powers of attorney, landlord-tenant and consumer affairs, SCRA and USERRA advice, civil suits, and many other matters. Mr. Harris’s clients include active duty members, retirees, officers of the commissioned corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, and dependents of each of them.
Before assuming his duties at D17, Mr. Harris practiced law in Southern Indiana and Louisville, Kentucky for nearly 20 years, including the final 12 years as a solo general practitioner focused primarily on bankruptcy and debtor-creditor relations, but including family law, civil suits, and juvenile and criminal law. In addition to his civilian legal experience, Mr. Harris retired as a Coast Guard Reservist in 2011. In 2004, he was designated a D8 reserve legal assistance attorney and served in that capacity until moving his family way out of the D8 AOR in the summer of 2009. He turned 18 at boot camp in 1983 and attended BM “A” school in 1984. He served reserve units in Louisville, Kentucky, and Omaha, Nebraska and under active commands at Group Ohio Valley and Sector Juneau. BM2 Harris twice was called to active duty, serving at Group Ohio Valley in 2002 and at Station Sabine, Texas, in 2003. He also served as a watch-stander at Louisville’s part-time Vessel Traffic Service.
Ms. Debe Michalke currently serves as the Legal Secretary for District Seventeen Legal Office, detached to Kodiak, Alaska. She provides administrative and clerical support functions to execute office procedures for the Base Kodiak legal assistance attorney and legal assistance office, whose mission affects a wide range of agency activities.
Prior to this assignment, she served from September 2013 to September 2014 as the Human Resources
Assistant assigned to CG-121 Headquarters, Arlington, VA detached to Base Kodiak, and from July 2012 to September 2013 as Commissary Support Clerk for DeCA, assigned to Kodiak, Alaska.
YN3 Madison N. Heiler currently serves as a Legal Technician at the Seventeenth Coast Guard District in Juneau, Alaska. She is a notary public and a Court Room Reporter responsible for providing legal assistance and assisting D17 attorney’s with Military Justice. She also provides various other administrative tasking and is responsible for the creation of the D17 Legal websites.