Inside Interview: Erin Gaddy

As part of the Blogland’s ongoing efforts to expose our readers to the wide range of movers and shakers in South Carolina through our Inside Interview series, we wanted to introduce our readers to the Midland’s own Erin Gaddy. She’s a career prosecutor who is currently working with the National District Attorneys Association, focusing on issues related to the abuse of the elderly and disabled. Prior to that, she spent four years as an Assistant Solicitor in the Midlands.

Erin is a Midlands native, born in Columbia, and after having lived in several states over the years, she’s back home. Her 91-year-old grandfather lives a couple of miles from her, her mother, sister, and brother-in-law live in northeast Columbia, and her dad’s on James Island. A member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Columbia, she loves to spend time with her family, both here and out of state, since she also loves to travel (that’s her in Hawaii).

In a state like South Carolina, with large populations of retirees flocking to its lakefronts and ocean shores, as well as the vigorous efforts being made in recent years by Lt. Governor Andre Bauer to raise awareness of these issues, her background in elder abuse issues caught our eye.

As we always do, we’ll throw some questions at her and see what she throws back at us.

1) Of all the options you had after law school, how did you end up in criminal prosecution?

I instantly liked criminal law (although it was probably my lowest grade in school), and tried both prosecution and defense. Social justice is a very important concept in the Catholic church, and my mother really emphasized it in our lives. I thought I might wind up a public defender, but it was quickly apparent that the people with the power to do the most justice were on the prosecution side. I believe we need great attorneys on both sides of the criminal courtroom, and have always felt like my place was on the side of the State.

2) For attorneys, a career in prosecution isn’t always the best-paying route, so we’ll assume you don’t do it for the money. What do you personally find to be the biggest rewards associated with your work?

When I was working in the courtroom, every night I could lay my head on my pillow with a clean conscience. I knew that I had done something good for someone every day, even when I’d just pushed paper on my desk or answered hone calls. That’s a pretty great reason to go to work every morning. I’d love it if both prosecutors and public defenders were paid better, in order to keep more of them in the profession long-term.

3) Tell us a little bit about what kind of work you do in your current position.

I’m involved with a Federally-funded project through the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). There are three prongs of the training currently (for law enforcement, judges, and prosecutors), and training for victim advocates and adult protective services workers is coming soon. I work with an incredible faculty from all over the nation to put on the OVW training for prosecutors on elder abuse and neglect. I’m not generally at the front of the room, but in the background, making sure the curriculum is running as it should. I have a lot of help, but ultimately I‘m responsible for the education these prosecutors receive.

We use a multi-disciplinary faculty consisting of prosecutors, medical doctors, mental health specialists, adult protective services workers, and victim advocates. Law enforcement experts on elder abuse were also involved in the development of the project. I also run a listserv for the trainees and faculty, plus offer technical assistance to prosecutors on elder abuse.

4) Since a lot of your work in recent years has focused upon protecting those, such as the elderly, who can’t protect themselves, what do you see as the most important trends out there?

It’s an incredibly vibrant time for the prosecution and prevention of elder abuse, so I’d prefer to focus on some positive trends. Because of increased awareness, we’re seeing much more reporting of elder abuse by community members and family members of victims, as well as more victims being willing to report for themselves.

It’s important to remember that in many states, 55-60 is “elderly,” which most people who have reached that age wouldn’t call themselves. Our elders are active community members who are demanding fair and equal treatment under the law. We talk about elder abuse being in a similar place as domestic violence was 30 years ago, where people are really interested in stopping it, but not entirely sure what they can do.

I’ve been very impressed with efforts from the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, as you mentioned. The more we can do to enforce the laws that are already on the books, the better off our elders will be. If each of our legislators simply thought about how they’d like their parents, grandparents, or themselves to be treated, I think we’d likely be in very good shape with our laws. There are great model laws out of Wisconsin and California, which of course is on the forefront of this issue. Florida and New York are also states to look to for instruction.

5) You're a Midlands native. For those who doubt that claim, we'll ask you to prove it by naming at least two good places to go for BBQ.

Doc's on Shop Road and Little Pigs up on Alpine Road.

6) As our final question – the Blogland loves to talk about music, so we’re going to ask you to name your favorite album(s) and/or artist(s).

For recent music, I’m a little obsessed with Corinne Bailey Rae’s debut album, but the classics still draw me: Joni Mitchell’s Wild Things Run Fast, and pretty much anything by CSNY or James Taylor.

9 Response to "Inside Interview: Erin Gaddy"

  1. west_rhino 1/8/08 11:53
    Awright, she hasn't been to Hite's on Dreher Road in West Columbia or Hudson's Smokehouse in Lexington.

    Little Pigs on Alpine, though has been there for a while... not as long as Hite's (Hite's really is older than this Rhino).

    Good to see a driven qualified lady working in her filed as this Rhino grays.
  2. Anonymous 1/8/08 12:20
    Earl, what I want to know is how does her super crime-fighting powers compare to those of the great and mighty "Wonder Woman", aka, Judge Handcuff Harrington of the Lowcountry?
  3. Earl Capps 1/8/08 12:26
    West - Hudson's is great. I hated to see their West Columbia location close, but I hear they may re-open that store in a nearby location.

    I will, however, second her opinion on Doc's. I've heard good reviews about Little Pigs as well, so I suspect her assessment is dead-on there as well.
  4. Anonymous 2/8/08 01:08
    I heard she trained Wonder Woman...I would suspect she would be a better lawyer and more intellectual than Harrington.
    Either way, she seems sharp. Thanks, Erin, for your service to our most vulnerable. We appreciate you here in the Blogland.
    So, if we are nicknaming her...Zena?
  5. Billy Bob 2/8/08 21:53
    Wasn't Zena like tall and busty? Is she?

    Would Earl tell us if he knew the truth? Probably not. He's too goody-two-shoes.

    In any event, I'd hate to cross her. She sounds razor sharp and tough as nails! Yikes!
  6. Erin Gaddy 2/8/08 23:18
    Thanks to you all for the support! I now live in Lexington County, so I'll be trying the BBQ joints on this side of the river soon, don't worry. I was trained on BBQ by my farmer cousins up in Durham/Creedmoor NC, so I have a strange preference for the vinegar sauce they do up there. Since I was born here, I ought to like the mustard sauce, but I just let my dad eat it instead. He's a Maurice's fan (no comment), and Mama Brown's (outside Charleston somewhere?).

    I can take no credit for training Wonder Woman, whether she be Diana Carter or The Honorable Kristi Harrington; Judge Harrington and I were assistant solicitors at the same time, and I'm happy to claim her as a friend. I probably shouldn't make any comments on looking like either Zena or Wonder Woman, but I'd consider a resemblance to either as quite a compliment.
  7. Jump50 3/8/08 19:48
    Erin, one should always hope to be associated with the likes of either of those ladies. Judge Harrington certainly embodies those qualities, as I understand you do as well - bold, ready for the fight, and committed to justice.

    Thanks for sharing a little bit of yourself with us, and of course, thanks for all that you do.
  8. west_rhino 4/8/08 10:45
    erin, Mama Brown's is on Ben Sawyer, on the way to Sullivan's Island. They do tend to offer that PeeDee Basin vinegar pepper style as a mainstay, though there usually is some Santee Cooper Basin yella sauced pork to be had.

    Sike's might still be out on Sumter Highway past Horrell Hill, for antoher mustard based sauce, but that is a digression from your platitudes.
  9. Anonymous 9/8/08 01:14
    Sounds like this gal means business. Maybe we need to make her a judge, like we did with Christy down in Charleston?

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