It’s not every judge who wins praise from the friends and family of a person he has found guilty. But that’s what happened to Florida judge David Young after a trial he remembers as one of the most important of his career.
A prominent member of the local Hispanic community had been charged with driving under the influence and Young determined he was guilty of the offense. Before they parted, he talked with the man about alcoholism, family and treatment programs.
A short while later, Young was getting a haircut, and people in the salon began coming up to him. They had recognized him as the judge from the high-profile case. Instead of being angry at him, they thanked him. They told him what a great job he had done.
“I said, ‘How did you know?’ They said it was because this person [I’d sentenced] had told them what a great job I did.”
Young says the experience reinforced his belief that if you show litigants, lawyers and the community at large that you care about them and are committed to justice, you’ll have not only a long career as a judge but a fulfilling one.
He has accomplished both – and more.
A Miami native, Young began his career in public service in 1984 as an assistant state attorney in Florida under future U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. In 1992 he was elected to the Miami-Dade County bench. A year later he gained widespread attention when he came out as gay, becoming the first openly gay judge in Miami-Dade County.
One of his highest profile cases occurred in 2005 when you presided over the trial of two America West Airlines pilots charged with operating an aircraft while intoxicated. The jury found them guilty.
Young stepped down from the bench in May 2007 to host “Judge David Young,”
a daily “People’s Court”-type series syndicated across the United States and Canada.
The show, which ran for two seasons, earned a Daytime Emmy nomination. It featured humorous interactions with his bailiff, Tawya Young, and at the end of each episode he would explain his verdict and take questions from the audience. He also hosted “Justice with a Snap!” on Sirius XM Radio.
In 2017 he returned to the bench in the Family Division in Miami-Dade County.
Judge Young continues to receive recognition for his therapeutic approach to justice. Over the years he has encouraged many litigants with substance-abuse issues to get the help they need so they can lead more productive lives. He was out for dinner recently and one such litigant came up to his table to thank him for saving his life.
Judge Young says he didn’t seek or expect all the attention he has received but is most appreciative of it.
“I am a judge doing what has to be done to help restore people’s confidence in the judiciary and to show the world that our judicial system works.”
Each month the College celebrates an exemplary or inspiring jurist who demonstrated courage in doing what all judges are supposed to do: administer justice fairly according to the law and without regard to outside influences or personal considerations.