Judicial candidate interview - Deborah Brooks Durden, Administrative Law, Seat 4

As we did last year, judicial candidates were invited to do interviews. While a lot of candidates didn't choose to participate, several did. We've met Ms. Brooks several times out and about and she eagerly accepted our invitiation to help introduce her to our readers:

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a native South Carolinian and a graduate of Spring Valley High School, Columbia College, and the University of South Carolina School of Law. I’ve been practicing law since 1991. During that time I have worked at a large insurance defense firm in Anchorage, Alaska, a small Columbia firm representing plaintiffs in employment and tort litigation, and I have been Assistant Chief Counsel at the South Carolina Department of Transportation for eleven years. I am married to my best friend, Kevin Durden, and we are blessed with three children – Jamie (age 13), Susan (age 12) and Angela Jane (age 5). We are active members of Trenholm Road United Methodist Church in Columbia.

Why are you seeking a judicial post?

I am seeking a seat as an Administrative Law Judge because it is the job that I believe I am called to do and one that I believe I would excel at. I have been interested in being a judge ever since I attended law school because it is an aspect of the law that really appeals to my personality. I am one of those rare and quirky individuals who will read the instruction manual before I play a new game or use a new product -- just as a judge must make sure she understands the law before she tries to decide the case.

What particular strong points would you bring to this office?

Experience: I believe that I have excellent experience in the areas of law that come before an Administrative Law Court and that I am prepared to be a fair and impartial judge to the parties that come before the Court. I have extensive experience handling contested cases before the court in several different types of matters (environmental permitting, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise certifications, and relocation assistance benefits). I have been responsible for guiding all regulations promulgated by SCDOT for the last 11 years through the same process applied in hearings held by the Administrative Law Court. From SCDOT condemnation cases I have gained experience dealing with issues related to real property appraisals similar to those that are presented in many of the property tax disputes that come before the court. Perhaps most importantly, I have considerable expertise in statutory and regulatory interpretation developed by 9 years’ experience as legislative liaison for SCDOT. In that role I draft and review legislation and amendments proposed in the South Carolina legislature and give legal opinions on the likely judicial interpretations of legislative proposals.

Discernment and good judgment: My legal experiences have taught me that there are two sides to every story. When I was a young lawyer clerking for a judge, I was evaluating a motion for an emergency temporary restraining order in a family court matter. I read the motion and ran to Judge Reese to recommend that he grant the ex parte order immediately in light of the horrible allegations made by the plaintiff. Judge Reese listened to my impassioned speech and replied calmly, “Let’s set it up for a hearing right away. We need to hear the other side of the story first. Normally Mother Teresa does not marry Jack the Ripper.” We did just that, and when I heard the other side of the story I learned to reserve judgment until all the facts are known. It is a lesson I have taken to heart and a skill I have honed in the years since that day. The practice of law at its heart is the art of dispute resolution. To promote real resolution, I have learned that it is important for all parties to know that their story has been heard whether they are the first or the last to speak.

What are the most important qualities and strengths that a judge should have?

Strong skills in legal analysis and writing. I believe I have the intellectual ability to understand the fine points of the law, to focus on the most important issues necessary to decide a case, and to clearly and concisely communicate the court’s decision in a written order.

A broad range of life and legal experience to give a balanced understanding of the types of issues that come before the court. This is especially true in the Administrative Law Court where all the cases are tried by the judge without a jury.

A patient and kind manner coupled with a firm insistence that litigants in the courtroom behave appropriately. A day in court is of paramount importance to the parties and their attorneys. It is important that everyone in the courtroom be treated with dignity and respect by the judge and other individuals in the courtroom.

What issues about our state’s courts concern you the most?

I’m concerned about crowded court dockets and the length of time that it takes for some types of matters to be heard. I believe that each judge has a duty to diligently work the docket in the court to try to handle matters as efficiently as possible.

How have your life experiences influenced the type of judge you plan to be?

Time spent in and outside South Carolina has influenced my perspective.

I believe that all leaders, whether they are judges or political, religious or civic leaders, must truly be a part of the community they serve in order to be effective. I am a native South Carolinian and have an understanding of our state and its social and political climate that can come only from being born and raised here. However, I spent my first three years of law practice in Anchorage, Alaska where I gained both valuable legal experience and a new perspective on regional social customs and people’s behavior. It was interesting to observe how some things are fundamentally the same even when they are so different on the surface. Spending time away from my home state gave me an opportunity to broaden my horizons as well as a new understanding and appreciation for the legal community here in South Carolina. During that time I learned first-hand that things are done very differently in other places and that there are both advantages and disadvantages to all those different practices. It gave me a new perspective and understanding that has been very valuable to me personally, and I believe it will be especially useful in promoting the discerning spirit that is the hallmark of a good judge.

3 Response to "Judicial candidate interview - Deborah Brooks Durden, Administrative Law, Seat 4"

  1. Anonymous 8/2/09 22:07
    Must be another RINO you're pushing. How much is Tompkins paying you?
  2. Earl Capps 8/2/09 23:34
    Get over it already.
  3. Anonymous 8/6/12 18:14
    What is a RINO?

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