Showing posts with label judicial issues. Show all posts
Showing posts with label judicial issues. Show all posts

Guest article: John Schafer - "Grandparents' rights advancing in Legislature - at last"

Today's guest article was written by John Schafer, a Pickens County resident and Vietnam-era veteran who heads us the Grandparents Rights Association of South Carolina. He is one of the most-recognized activists on Family Court and DSS reforms related to the rights of grandparents and other close relatives in South Carolina:

As a concerned grandparent and citizen, I have been working in the family rights movement for about five years, working to protect the rights of family members to play roles in the lives of their relatives. In many states, including South Carolina, grandparents have few legal rights and can be left unable to be involved in the lives of their grandchildren, in spite of considerable research which shows that involvement can make a vital difference in the lives of children. While there has been little progress in our state on these issues, the one bright spot where real progress was made was when Governor Mark Sanford signed regarding grandparents’ visitation rights bill into law back in 2010 (the full text of the law can be seen on this page: http://grasc.org/news/news.html).

Since then, we have been working to do more to strengthen Grandparents rights and give them more opportunities to make a difference - with lots of encouragement but little result until recently.

Family Court races going down to the wire


Several judicial races are going down to the wire, with candidates hustling for support before legislators vote to fill the seats at noon tomorrow.

The Blogland did Q&A interviews with two candidates still in the running: Kelly Pope, who is seeking Family Court At-Large Seat 1, and Melissa Emery, who is seeking Family Court At-Large Seat 5. We appreciate their willingness to answer questions to help enlighten.

Last week, the Blogland raised questions about a Family Court candidate who has no courtroom experience, but still wants to be elected to a Family Court seat:

While candidates are withdrawing from a number of formerly-contested judicial races as they find themselves short of the votes needed to win election to seats, Frierson is still hanging in the race, meaning she has likely attracted some support - but we're not sure why.

If Frierson wanted to serve as a judge badly enough, especially in a focused post such as a Family Court judge, it would seem logical that she would have sought to add practical courtroom experience, especially with domestic issues, to her resume before seeking this post. Hopefully she will address this lack of experience and try again in the future - but this is too important a post for on-the-job training.voting or know someone who is.

All three articles should make for good reading - especially if you're one of those voting, or know someone who is.

Kelly Pope, Family Court candidate - Seat One

As part of the Blogland's efforts to open up the state's judicial election process for people to see, judicial candidates are invited to answer questions about their background. Thus far, two candidates for this year's judicial elections have taken questions from the Blogland: Family Court candidate Melissa Emery and Circuit Court candidate Maite Murphy.

Now, we’d like for our readers to meet Kelly Pope, who is seeking At-Large Judge seat #1 in the Family Court:

Melissa Emery, Family Court candidate - Seat Five

In the first few weeks of this year's legislative session, this race to fill a number of state judicial seats will be at the top of the agenda of our state’s legislators. 

We at the Blogland believe our state’s judicial selection process is too hidden from the public eye, and that a little transparency is long overdue. To help shed a little light on this somewhat-shadowy process for the benefit of our readers, we ask those seeking upcoming judicial seats to answer a few questions - and appreciate those who respond.

Melissa Emery, a Pee Dee native and an attorney from Myrtle Beach, is seeking the Seat Five At-Large Family Court seat. The first in her family to get through college, she’s a proud Francis Marion alum who is nearing her tenth year as a member of its board. A graduate of USC Law School, Ms. Emery has been practicing law for eighteen years, with much of her practice time spent in family law.

Now, we’d like for our readers to meet Ms. Emery:

Today's Judicial qualifications

The Judicial Merit Screening Committee released candidates for three judicial seats today:

  • Fifth Circuit, Circuit Court Judge: Benjamin, Meadors & Hood
  • Ninth Circuit, Family Court Judge: Mack, Martin, Turner
  • Thirteenth Circuit, Circuit Court Judge: Englebardt, Mackenzie & Verdin

Special thanks to Ferris Bueller for keeping us updated. More screening reports are due tomorrow, so stay tuned.

Embattled Master in Equity stepping down


Last spring, the re-appointment of Dorchester County Master-in-Equity judge Patrick Watts became a hot-button issue when allegations surfaced about mishandling of foreclosure cases:


Watts has been under public scrutiny since the S.C. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in December that he violated a Summerville woman’s constitutional rights by allowing his secretary to conduct a foreclosure hearing involving her home without any testimony. Watts later signed an order authorizing the foreclosure, though he wasn’t present at the hearing.
The Blogland has been informed that Watts has opted to drop out of consideration for appointment to another term on the bench following a number of complaints which were filed against him. In spite of these concerns, he will serve out his term, which is expected to last until May of next year, while the vacancy is filled.

South Carolina DNA inmate database helping bring repeat offenders to justice

Those going to prison in South Carolina will find it harder to get away with other crimes they've committed due to a new South Carolina law which requires inmates to submit DNA samples for cross-referencing with DNA samples from crime scenes.

Just ask Damien Edwards. Already serving a 19-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter, he was linked to a two-year old unsolved rape case, using the DNA sample he submitted upon beginning his prison sentence. Last week, he was given a 40 year sentence - thirty for sexual assualt and ten for kidnapping - by 9th Circuit Judge Kristi Harrington.

Security threats to S.C. courts abound


This came just days after a ruling by the S.C. Supreme Court which found that Sheriffs were responsible for providing courtroom security. This ruling addressed a lawsuit brought in 2003 in Lexington County in which a defendant in a domestic violence hearing attacked the victim in a magistrate's court.

But the Blogland has found that these problems are nothing new, nor are they isolated incidents.

Commerce Secretary speaks out for tort and worker's comp reform

State Commerce Secretary weighed into the ongoing tort and workers' comp reform efforts this afternoon, publicly endorsing legislation that would help address both issues, by reining in frivilous legal actions against employers.  He pointed out what those of us in economic and workforce development know all to well:

Moving workers' compensation reform and tort reform forward now would strenghten our businese environment and thus increase our competitiveness. While numerous factors influence a company's location decision, we have found that fundamental issues like tort laws and workers' compensation play a key role in every location decision.
Amen, Brother.

Congratulations to Judge John Few

Congratulations are in order to 13th Circuit Court Judge John Few, who is now running unopposed for the Chief of State Appeals Court being vacated by newly-elected Supreme Court Justice Kaye Hearn.

The Blogland endorsed Few for a Supreme Court seat last year. While he didn't win that seat, his persistence paid off this year with the appellate seat, and we believe he will do a great job in this new judicial seat.

We'd also like to point out that we know one of the other candidates, Daniel Pieper.  He's an outstanding legal scholar who has earned a lot of praise from those we've spoken with in the legal community. We hope will take advantage of another opportunity to move up in the future.

Handcuffs Harrington strikes again


A Charleston County jury on Thursday took less than four hours to convict Jeffrey M. Herrmann, 28, of murdering Sarhan with a handgun in the summer of 2000. Following a three-day trial, Circuit Judge Kristi Harrington sentenced Herrmann to 45 years behind bars.

The strange turn of events was viewed as remarkable around the courthouse because a minor traffic offense of driving on a suspended license helped solve a murder.



Three day for the trial, four hours to reach a verdict and the trash is off the streets for good. Efficient and quite final. We like a judge like this and need we need more like her.

But we'd love to see her give a sentence which includes that famous line from Cool Hand Luke - "What we've got here is failure to communicate":



Judicial candidate interview: Maite Murphy

Once our legislators are back in session, they'll be asked to fill a number of judicial appointments. To help better inform those politicos who read this blog, as well as shine a little light on this process for the general public, we've invited those who are seeking contested seats to introduce themselves to our readers.

While some candidates responded to our email inviting them to do Blogland interviews, the majority don't respond. However, the level of responses are growing, which we see as a part of a growing willingness by our state's judiciary to open up to the general public - which we believe is a good thing.

In addition to interviews, we'll be talking about issues related to various judicial candidacies and making endorsements of some of the judicial candidates who we believe stand above what is generally a pretty good group of candidates. We invite you to stay tuned for our continued focus on these judicial races.

Our first interviewee is Maite Murphy, a Dorchester County magistrate, Summerville attorney, and former 1st Circuit prosecutor. She's also the only female candidate to make it out of screening for this round of judicial elections.

Tell us a little bit about yourself:



I am married to Chris Murphy who is a Citadel graduate and serves on Dorchester County Council and we have two sons. I was admitted to practice law in 1995 and I began my career in Columbia with the law firm of Holler, Dennis, Corbett & Garner where I practiced general litigation.

In 1998 I began working at the First Circuit Solicitors office under a special grant to prosecute violent crimes against women. I was assigned to prosecute the violent crimes against women and children in the office and rose to the rank of Chief Deputy Solicitor for the First Judicial Circuit, which includes Calhoun, Dorchester and Orangeburg Counties. In 2005, I joined the law firm of Quattlebaum & Murphy (which later became the Murphy Law Firm-ed.). I handle all aspects of criminal and civil trial practice. The practice of law is an honorable profession that helps people through very difficult times and it has been very rewarding both personally and professionally.


Why are you seeking this judicial seat?


I want to become a Circuit Court Judge because I know I can have a positive impact on our legal system in that capacity. The experience I have gained through extensive trial work has placed me in a unique position that has allowed me to learn not only from other lawyers, but from judges, juries and victims of crimes or other life circumstances. It is extremely important that every person that walks into a courtroom, regardless of the outcome of the case, should feel that the court was diligent, efficient and fair. I know I can bring those qualities to the bench.

What are some important things that you have to offer as a judge?


One of the strong points that I would bring to the office is trial experience. The Circuit Court is a trial level Court and having that trial experience is a strong component of being a good trial court judge. In addition, I was appointed as Special Referee in 2005 of the ExxonMobil class action suit which was filed in Orangeburg County. Also, my current service as the Associate Chief Magistrate for Dorchester County has given me important insight on the judiciary and how it can impact the lives of our citizens.

What are some important qualities the public should expect in a judicial candidate?


A judge should at all times be fair, diligent, and knowledgeable while maintaining respect to both the litigants and to the honor of the profession.

Tell us about some issues that concern you regarding our state's judicial system.



The issues that concern me the most about our State’s courts deal with the fact that there is a tremendous backlog of cases to be disposed of and heard. This gives parties an impression that if they are to receive justice and be part of the system, it is going to take a long time to get there. That holds true in both civil and criminal matters. There have been other very serious consequences of the back logs by having people commit serious crimes while out on bond for extensive periods of time before their cases are called to trial. This of course, is not just a problem for the judiciary, but for the staffs of the Solicitors and Public Defenders whose resources are limited by budgetary constraints.

What other things do you do outside the practice of law?


I am a huge sports fan (especially of my two boys’ teams), an avid snow skier, scuba diver and love to run with my three dogs who are very enthusiastic motivators in the mornings!

SC Bar releases judicial candidate assessments

As candidates begin lining up to compete for judicial seats, the folks at the S.C. Bar have done their homework, checked it twice, and published a list of assessments of the prospective judicial candidates.

We've investigated about how these assessments are done. From what we've seen, the process seems pretty fair, with lots of safeguards to ensure the process is fair and the input received is truly representative of those who have dealt with that candidate.

Usually several candidates have been found not to be qualified in past rounds of judicial elections (the Bar's assessments, while fairly informed and influential, are not binding upon legislators), this time each candidate was rated either "qualified" or "well qualified". Either they're getting better, or they're better at lobbying to keep bad assessments covered up. In any event, it would be nice to see the entire assessments, instead of just summaries.

We've heard from several candidates and their supporters about doing interviews with the Blogland. As we have found these interviews help legislators learn more about the candidates, as well as helps shed light on what has been long considered a very non-transparent process, we are very interested in talking with any and every interested judicial candidate.

If you want to find out more about these assessments, you can read the full summary of candidate assessments at
http://www.scbar.org/public/files/docs/JQCfall09.pdf

Blogland to back Supreme Court candidate?

The Blogland has begun speaking with members of the state Bar to solicit their thoughts regarding the three candidates for the state Supreme Court. This information may be used to publish an endorsement of a particular candidate.

Those with opinions and insights regarding the candidates are asked to drop an email to earl@earlcapps.org. While input from attorneys is important, information will also be accepted from other interested parties, such as law enforcement, victims' advocates and those who have appeared in front of the judges.

The three candidates are also invited to do the standard Q&A that the Blogland regularly does for judicial candidates.

As per standard Blogland policy, all information provided, as well as the identities of those who contact us, will be kept confidential.

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.

Senator Rose charting a new course on magistrate appointments

Our readers know we've not always agreed with Senator Mike Rose, but on the issue of magisterial appointments, which was blown wide open by the man he ousted from the seat in the June primary, we think he's doing the right thing. Instead of picking relatives or political allies to fill the seats, the Summerville Senator announced that he would take applications from interested parties and appointed a committee to review those applications which were submitted:


Rose has appointed a citizens committee to review the applications, conduct interviews with the candidates and receive any other information from police agencies and citizens who use the Magistrates Court.

S. C. Court of Appeals Judge Daniel F. Piper is heading up the Dorchester County Magistrate Merit Selection Committee. Judge Pieper was elected to the Court of Appeals in May, 2007 .... Judge Pieper is joined on the selection committee by Family Court Judge William Wylie, Jr. who was elected to the position of resident judge for the Family Court for the First Judicial Circuit. He is a former Dorchester County Probate Judge.

Other citizen members are Dr. Tim Huber, a dentist who resides in Kings Grant and a retired 22 year veteran of the United States Navy; Ted French, a Coosaw Creek business man and a retired Colonel from the U.S. Air Force; Ernest Moultrie of Summerville who is in charge of Court Security for Dorchester County; Julie Anderson, a realtor for Horne Realty in Summerville and a former resident of Ridgeville, who chaired sister Jenny Horne’s campaign for the State House of Representatives in the June primary; Jim Emery, a resident of the Bridges of Summerville, an 18 year veteran of the New York State Legislature and a retired Colonel from the USAF; and Pegge Schall, an Ashborough resident who is a member of the Dorchester County Zoning and Planning Board and a former Republican Executive Committeeman and President of the Ashborough Precinct.

This early move by Senator Rose offers a constructive idea on how to address this thorny issue - and we think it shows a lot of promise. We hope others look at this experiment and consider how they can reform how magistrates are appointed in their communities.

Contested state judicial races

As we did in the last round of judicial elections, the Blogland is going to be watching our state’s judicial races, looking for the good, bad, and ugly among the candidates. As before, we’ve contacted judicial candidates, offering them opportunities to introduce themselves, and already heard from a couple who are interested. As the process moves forward, we’ll run the interviews of those who accepted our invitiations, so our readers can get to learn a little bit more about them.

Here are the judicial seats which had multiple candidates file for them:

CIRCUIT COURT
First Judicial Circuit, Seat 1: Jeffrey P. Bloom, Sandy Run, James E. Chellis, Summerville, Edgar Warren Dickson, Orangeburg, D’Anne Haydel, Orangeburg, James Benjamin Jackson, Jr., Santee, The Honorable Pandora Jones-Glover, Orangeburg, Michael P. Horger, Orangeburg, Maite Murphy, Summerville

Eighth Judicial Circuit, Seat 2: Bryan C. Able, Laurens, Frank R. Addy, Jr., Greenwood, Eugene C. Griffith, Jr., Newberry, Donald Bruce Hocker, Laurens, Walter Rutledge Martin, Greenwood, and Joseph C. Smithdeal, Greenwood.

Thirteenth Judicial Circuit, Seat 3: The Honorable Larry R. Patterson, Greenville, Patrick Cleburne Fant, III, Greenville, Benjamin Lester Shealy, Easley, and Robin B. Stillwell, Greer.

At-Large, Seat 1: David Craig Brown, Florence, Allen O. Fretwell, Greenville, Lisa C. Glover, Columbia, William B. von Herrmann, Conway, Andrew Michael Hodges, Greenwood, Ervin Jerome Maye, West Columbia, S.C. and The Honorable William Jeffrey Young, Sumter.

At-Large, Seat 6: Daniel Francis Blanchard, III, Charleston, Phillip S. Ferderigos, Charleston, Leland Bland Greeley, Rock Hill, Daniel Dewitt Hall, York, The Honorable Roger E. Henderson, Chesterfield, The Honorable Robert N. Jenkins, Sr., Travelers Rest, William Henry Seals, Jr., Marion, William J. Thrower, Hollywood, and Sarah Elizabeth Wetmore, Folly Beach.

FAMILY COURT
Tenth Judicial Circuit, Seat 1: Edgar Henderson Long, Jr., Anderson, M. Scott McElhannon, Anderson, and David Earl Phillips, Williamston.

Thirteenth Judicial Circuit, Seat 6: Catherine C. Christophillis, Greenville, W. Wallace Culp, III, Greenville, S.C., Catherine E. Fairey, Greenville, Alex Kinlaw, Jr., Greenville, William Marsh Robertson, Greenville, David Jamison Rutledge, Greenville, and Michael Don Stokes, Taylors.

ADMINISTRATIVE LAW COURT
Seat 4: Deborah Brooks Durden, Columbia, Christopher McGowan Holmes, Mount Pleasant, Melody L. James, Lexington, Carol Ann Isaac McMahan, Anderson, Leonard P. Odom, Chapin, Kelly Hunter Rainsford, Columbia, and Shirley Canty Robinson, Columbia

Please note that the fielding for these seats will likely narrow down considerably as the judicial screening process has yet to begin. As many three candidates which are found qualified will be referred to the General Assembly for each seat once the screening process is complete.

Most state judicial incumbents unopposed for new terms

While there’s a whole pack of judicial candidates seeking various seats, many of the state's judicial seats which are up for election will go unopposed. Here's who is getting a free ride to another term on the bench:

Court of Appeals, Seat 5: The Honorable Kaye G. Hearn, Conway
Fifth Judicial Circuit, Seat 3: The Honorable G. Thomas Cooper, Jr., Camden
Ninth Judicial Circuit, Seat 3: The Honorable Roger M. Young, Sr., North Charleston
Fourteenth Judicial Circuit, Seat 2: The Honorable Carmen Tevis Mullen, Hilton Head Island
Fifteenth Judicial Circuit, Seat 2: The Honorable Benjamin H. Culbertson, Georgetown
At-Large, Seat 2: The Honorable Rupert Markley Dennis, Jr., Pinopolis
At-Large, Seat 3: The Honorable Clifton Newman, Columbia
At-Large, Seat 4: The Honorable Edward Walter Miller, Greenville
At-Large, Seat 5: The Honorable J. Mark Hayes, II, Spartanburg
At-Large, Seat 7: The Honorable Jesse Cordell Maddox, Jr., Anderson
At-Large, Seat 8: The Honorable Kenneth G. Goode, Winnsboro
At-Large, Seat 9: The Honorable J. Michelle Childs, Columbia
At-Large, Seat 10: The Honorable James Rezner Barber, III, Columbia
Administrative Law, Seat 1: The Honorable Marvin F. Kittrell, Columbia

We want to congratulate Judge Roger Young, who recently did an Inside Interview with the Blogland, on getting another term on the bench.

Thank You, Judge Few!

One of the Blogland's priorities has been to open up the state's judicial system and courts. We believe this part of state government has been one of the least transparent, making it hard to get to the bottom of concerns many people have - but also making it difficult to pick out the judges who are doing really good jobs.

One of the judges we've come to view as one of the good guys on the bench has been 13th Circuit Judge John Few, an Anderson native who usually holds court in Greenville, but has been traveling the state quite a bit hearing cases. We had a chance to meet him recently and had a really good conversation about new media and judicial issues. The guy knows his stuff.

But we're not the only new media blogger type he's been good to recently. He allowed Diane Gallagher, a reporter from Rock Hill's CN2 cable news program to blog live from his courtroom, giving readers running reports on the progress of the trial.

We've seen several recent cases where state judges have begun embrace new media, including Judges Harrington and Young from the 9th Circuit, who have graciously given us interviews and helped educate us about our state's courts. Those two, along with other judges we've talked with, have sincerely been interested in a judicial system that is open and transparent, while striving to meet high standards for fairness and professionalism.

This isn't the first time Judge Few has impressed us as one of the "good guys" on the bench, and we thank him for continuing to work with us new media types.

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 ernietheattorney.net. 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!