McMurry College (1983-87)
Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education (Magna Cum Laude)
W. Anthony Hunt Award to Outstanding Senior Man
Alpha Chi National Honor Society H.Y. Benedict FellowshipTexas Tech University School of Law (1987-90)
Doctor of Jurisprudence (Cum Laude)
Order of the Coif (honorary society rewarding excellence in legal education)
Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society
Legal Research Board
Intern, The Honorable Samuel R. Cummings, U.S. District Judge
Board Certified Appellate Lawyer and Owner of Thomas Wade Young, P.L.
Current or past involvement with:
League of Women Voters of Orange County
Outreach Love (volunteer outreach program providing tutoring and mentoring)
Metropolitan Business Association
United Methodist Church
Downtown Y’s Men (Wichita, KS) (YMCA affiliated service organization)
Arthritis Foundation, Kansas Chapter
Additionally, I provide pro bono representation to children and youth. During the 2015-16 Bar year, I provided more than 170 hours of pro bono representation in addition to my service on the Florida Bar’s Professional Ethics Committee and service to the Orange County Bar Association. Throughout my career I have served local, state, and national Bar organizations in various capacities.
Describe your philosophy of the judicial role, the qualities that are most important for the role, and the greatest challenges to the role.
Judges are public servants and guardians of the judicial branch. Although the judicial branch is supposed to be an equal branch of government, its operations depend on funding by the Legislature, which allocates less than 1% of the state budget to the courts. Also, many court decisions depend upon the legislative and executive branches for implementation. These realities pose a constant threat to the judiciary as an equal third branch.
The manner in which judges execute their role is critical to maintaining the equality and independence of the judiciary. The qualities most important to this role are a strong work ethic, selflessness, respectfulness, restraint, humility, wisdom, and even-handedness. Judges should run efficient dockets and make timely, fair, and consistent decisions. A good judge leaves litigants and counsel feeling confident they have been heard and respected, regardless of the outcome.
The greatest challenges I perceive are (1) inadequate funding (and, consequently, inadequate staffing), and (2) the increasing politicization of judicial office. The role of a trial court judge is to impartially apply established legal principles to the facts of each case. Judges must do this without regard to personal beliefs or what outcomes s/he or the public may prefer. Yet, an under-appreciation for the role of the judiciary has caused judges to face enormous political pressure. Judges must have the integrity and courage to fulfill their constitutional duties.
Briefly describe a case or a legal issue on which you worked of which you are particularly proud, or is reflective of your legal ability and work. (limit 150 words)
I am especially proud of my work to curb misapplication of the “least restrictive means” doctrine in the context of child welfare law in Florida. Because the doctrine was frequently misapplied, children were often disrupted from stable, long-term, pre-adoptive placements. These disruptions can cause severe psychological harm to children.
I established the appellate division of the Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office and led the division for several years. Through my work in that division, Florida’s five courts of appeal recognized the unintended expansion of the least restrictive means doctrine and began writing opinions that clarified the law. As a result, the right of children to stable, permanent homes is now routinely given appropriate priority. Our work did not diminish the importance of family. To the contrary, it encouraged family members to come forward early, thereby keeping families together and reducing the negative psychological consequences children experience when separated from family.
What, in your opinion, is the most important U. S. Supreme Court decision? Why? (limit 150 words)
Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803). Marbury established the scope of judicial review. All later cases affirming or overturning laws as constitutional or unconstitutional exist because of Marbury. Marbury’s holding is in keeping with the words of Alexander Hamilton in Federalist Paper No. 78, which was written to secure ratification of the Constitution: “The interpretation of the laws is the proper and peculiar province of the courts. A constitution is, in fact, and must be regarded by the judges, as fundamental law. It therefore belongs to them to ascertain its meaning, as well as the meaning of any particular act proceeding from the legislative body. … [W]here the will of the legislature, declared in its statutes, stands in opposition to that of the people, declared in the Constitution, the judges ought to be governed by the latter rather than the former.”
What do you perceive as the greatest obstacles to justice, if any? Why? (limit 150 words)
Underfunding and politicization of the judicial branch are, in my opinion, two of the most serious threats to justice.
Inadequate funding and staffing limit the ability of courts to timely dispense justice. Delayed justice is more expensive to parties, often exacerbates the harm a party has sustained, and erodes public confidence in the judicial branch.
In addition to heavy case loads and crowded dockets, judges face enormous pressure from a variety of interest groups. Across the United States, courts and judges are under attack for their rulings. The best way judges can respond to this increasing politicization is by respecting the bounds of judicial authority, ruling fairly and consistently, participating in continuing education of lawyers and in programs to educate the public, and conducting their courtrooms and personal affairs with an even, reasonable, and respectful disposition.