Diana Dickinson '89

U.S. Air Force Judge
Washington, D.C.

In the 1960s, the armed services of the United States made a change from using active duty military judges to using civilian ones. While there are several civilian Army and Navy judges on the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals, there hasn't been an Air Force judge on the board, until recently. In October 2007, University of Dayton School of Law alumna Diana Dickinson became the first civilian Air Force judge in U.S. military history.

Dickinson was in her 30s when she enrolled at UDSL. After 15 years in corporate accounting management, she decided to pursue an interest in employment law. While she was a law student, she was accepted into an intern program with Wright Patterson Air Force Base (the program ended in 1990).

She accepted a job at the base when she graduated in 1989 and worked her way from a GS-9 to GS-15 grade, to the position of deputy chief trial attorney for the Air Force. In 2006 she was asked to apply to be a judge.

In her career Dickinson said she has handled complex civil litigation cases ranging from those dealing with major weapons systems worth millions of dollars, to those dealing with moving service men and women¿s household items worth hundred of dollars.

Dickinson calls Wright-Patterson "the largest single-purpose law firm in town. I had cases right out of law school that partners in town will never have."

One early case that stands out for Dickinson involved the Air Force¿s cost accounting standards. The case, which is still cited today, was won in the appeals process and carried a financial impact estimated at $130 million of annual savings for the Department of Defense.

The Armed Services Board currently comprises 20 judges and tries all Defense Department cases, as well as acts as mediators and arbitrators. There is a separate board for civilian government departments, such as the Post Office.