Inside Interview: 9th Circuit Judge Roger Young

Ninth Circuit Court Judge Roger Young is a veteran to public service in the Lowcountry. While his record of public service is certainly commendable and noteworthy, it wasn’t until we read his judicial bio that we knew he was someone we just had to interview:

Through no fault of his own, he was born in Michigan; however, his family moved to South Carolina when he was two years old, allowing him to maintain that he is truly a Southerner at heart. He grew up in North Charleston, and in 1980 graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from the Baptist College at Charleston, which is now known as Charleston Southern University. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1983 with the degree of Juris Doctor, and with the degree of Master of Judicial Studies from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2000 …

Roger also served as a Municipal Judge for the City of North Charleston from 1988-90. He was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1990 and served two terms. He was Master-in-Equity for Charleston County from 1996 until he replaced Judge Vic Rawl on the Circuit Court bench upon his retirement on July 1, 2003 …

Through an odd confluence of interstellar events, Roger has received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Charleston in 1992, was appointed an Honorary Kentucky Colonel by Gov. Brereton C. Jones in 1993, and was awarded the Order of the Palmetto by Gov. Carroll A. Campbell in 1994.

That’s a nice introduction, but as our readers know, the canned introductions are never enough. Circuit Court Judge Perry Buckner, from the state's 14th Circuit, praised Young as:

A patient and dignified Circuit Court Judge who does not take himself too seriously, and uses common sense on the bench every week.

As part of our ongoing Inside Interview series, Judge Young was obliging enough to give us an opportunity to dig a little deeper and find out more about some of those who play roles in state and local governments in South Carolina. So let’s see what he has to share with us:

1) As an attorney, you could have made more money in private practice, or stuck around in the General Assembly and worked your way into a leadership position by now. Instead, you chose to pursue a career on the bench. Why?

Making a lot of money has never really been a motivating factor in my life, and I found through being in the state legislature that I enjoy public service. Serving in the General Assembly was a wonderful experience; however, I'm not cut out for that job. I have a special appreciation for those that do it and enjoy it, but constantly driving up the road to Columbia and always running for re-election is not my cup of tea.

There is nothing like being a circuit court judge to have something new to deal with every day. I consider myself one of those fortunate people who look forward to going to work every day, although there are some days it flat wears you down, but I suppose that is true of every job.

2) You’ve served the state both as a legislator and as a judge. Do you think that gives you perspectives that other judges who never served in the legislature might have? If so, what are they?

Every judge brings their own unique perspective to the bench, so while I would say it gives me a different perspective, I do not want to imply that it makes me a better judge than my colleagues, because some of the best have never served in the legislature. I would say the experience made me a better citizen. I think everyone should run for office at some point in time (as long as they don't run against me). It will humble you to have to go out and ask people for their vote.

3) What do you see as a major challenge for the state’s court system in the years ahead?

The case load for circuit court judges is the highest in the nation and is getting worse. While the legislature has authorized three new circuit court positions, they have not funded them in several years. We are trying to manage our dockets so that people don't have to wait years to get their case heard, but you can only squeeze so much.

We also now have two law schools in this state graduating twice the number of new lawyers. That has to have an effect on the number of case filings. Technology can only get us so far. You have to have a body on the bench to hear the case at some point.

We are trying to more cases resolved through alternatives to trial by jury, such as mediation and arbitration, but the sheer volume means that there are still a lot of cases left on the trial roster. In addition, those cases that do not resolve themselves are increasingly complex and demand more pre-trial attention from the judges, who cannot be in two places at one time.

4) Your term is up in 2009. Do you plan to seek another term, or maybe move up the judicial ladder?

I am filing for re-election this fall. That election will be early next year. I enjoy what I do immensely and have no foreseeable desire to seek an appellate court position. I may change my mind one day. However, I have set on the Supreme Court twice when justices have been sick or on vacation, and while it was a great experience, but left me wondering if I wanted to read briefs and transcripts all day.

I like the interaction with people you get as a trial court judge, especially with juries. I think the combination of the adversarial process and a trial by jury is the best system for settling conflicts ever devised by man.

5) Anyone who thinks Sweatman’s BBQ is a great place to eat rates highly in the Blogland. Tell us a little bit about your work as a BBQ judge. Also, name five of your favorite BBQ restaurants.

I started judging barbeque the minute I ate at Sweatman's 30 years ago in college. That's the gold standard for what a commercial barbeque joint should be, in my humble opinion. However, competition barbeque is something else entirely. I started judging at the local Prestigious Palmetto Pig-Pickin' in Charleston over ten years ago, and look forward to it every year. It's grown and become quite a well-respected event. The quality of barbeque produced by the competitors is very high.

Believe it or not, the hardest part of judging competition barbeque is to not over-eat early. You can't eat more than a very, very small amount because you will probably be eating 15-20 samples within a few hours. I learned the hard way.

As for commercial places, locally Fiery Ron's Home Team and Jim and Nick's are putting out some outstanding barbeque. I recently tried a new place in North Charleston off East Montague called The Barbeque Place and it showed great promise. I also held court in Moncks Corner this week and tried a new place called Moose's BBQ. It was very good and had an outstanding beef brisket, which you don't find much of in this area of the country. The owner, Moose, wandered around place constantly checking on his customers and chatting people up. It was a fun experience.

Candidly, growing up in the low country I have a soft spot for any of the Bessinger brothers' places when you just need to scratch an itch and eat a good sandwich and onion rings. There is a branch of Brown's BBQ in Moncks Corner that is really good. Finally, there are branches of the ubiquitous Dukes BBQ in Beaufort and Ridgeland that serve fried chicken gizzards on their buffet which earns them an honorable mention for that fact alone.

Man, I could talk about bbq all day.

6) It looks like you’re pretty well-read, with references on blogs and websites showing up. What are some websites and blogs you enjoy?

I have a friend in New Orleans who has one of the oldest law related blogs (as well as one of the most respected) called He covers much more than law, and often writes about computers, photography, philosophy, yoga, food and his mistress - the City of New Orleans. He is commercial law litigator who frequently lectures around the country on law and computers. He is partially responsible for my converting to Apple computers a few years ago, and he operates a truly paperless office out of his home. A cool guy to hang out with.

Until it recently shut down, I thought FakeSteveJobs, a blog satire about Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, was pure genius. You helped to be an Apple fan to really appreciate it, but it was fabulous satire, and anyone who follows the computer industry could appreciate it. I hope it comes back.

I listen to some podcasts daily while I walk since I'm not much of a music fan. A couple are, again, Apple related, but I also enjoy Dennis Miller's re-broadcast of his radio show. By now you've figured out I'm a big Apple computer fan, and love having an Apple store in Charleston. I also am grateful that SC Public Radio podcasts Walter Edgar's Journal. I'd never be able to listen to it otherwise. Those broadcasts are wonderful for those that love to learn about this state, and Walter shares my love of all things barbeque.

7) What is it about be a judge that most people would not understand?

First, judges do a lot more than sit on the bench and listen to trials. In fact, when you are serving a year as Chief Administrative Judge like I currently am, it is probably less than half of what I do most days. There is a never-ending mound of paperwork as CAJ.

I suppose most people would be surprised at how difficult it can be to sentence people, or perhaps I should state more correctly, fashion an appropriate sentence. Every person is different, and the vast majority of people are not evil, horrible people. If you stop and think about it, the relative rarity of brutal, violent crimes is why they are newsworthy when they happen. Instead, most of the people who come before the courts have wrecked their lives with drugs and alcohol, and we are dealing with crime which is either directly or indirectly associated with it. You can toss them in jail and throw away the key - and sometimes you have to do that - but most of them are eventually going to get out of prison, and as a society it is in our best interest to figure out some way to turn them into productive citizens as opposed to hardened criminals. I don't have the answer. I just deal with the problem.

Sentencing young people really is heartbreaking. Young people make so many mistakes, and every time I see one infront of me I envision one of my children. I can only imagine how their parents must feel. A sad fact of life is that far too many young people don't even have a family member that comes to courts with them. It takes no imagination to guess how they got there. Sadly, they are often parents themselves, and have no skills or education by which they are reasonably going to get a decent paying job or become a responsible parent. You wonder what chance their children have to succeed. It's a cycle that seems to have no end.

Wow ... great interview!

6 Response to "Inside Interview: 9th Circuit Judge Roger Young"

  1. Anonymous 20/8/08 00:31
    Judge Young is a fine example of a hard working, commmon sense judge. Kudos to you, Earl, for giving us a more personal view of him. Thank you, Judge Young.
  2. Anonymous 20/8/08 01:55
    Thank you for your consideration in the Wando case...Glad you didmt think 10 years was the right thing to do.
  3. Anonymous 20/8/08 02:09
    Where's the music????
  4. Mike 20/8/08 11:32
    Agreed. A great guy and dedicated public servant. I, for one, appreciate his service to his community and state, as well as his excellent taste in BBQ.
  5. Mike Reino 20/8/08 18:50
    Are you sure that's not Joshua Gross ??
  6. Anonymous 20/8/08 23:41
    I think he must be the Green Lantern!

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