TRIBUTE: Retirement party slated for Judge Young

By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

Little more than a month before she is scheduled to leave office, the most senior member of the Oakland County bench will be the subject of what is expected to be a series of heartfelt tributes at a retirement party this Wednesday, Nov. 30, in Birmingham.

Of course, for good measure there also might be a few good-natured barbs tossed her way, befitting such a retirement send-off.

Whatever the case, Oakland County Circuit Judge Joan Young figures to thoroughly enjoy the evening’s festivities, which will take place from 5:30-8 p.m. on November 30 at Birmingham Country Club.

The event is being billed as “a celebration of her career,” which began in 1974 when Young entered private practice following graduation from Wayne State University Law School.

“Judge Young has been a voice of reason throughout her time on the bench,” said Judy Cunningham, retired corporation counsel for Oakland County and one of the organizers of the retirement party. “She has been a role model for many young lawyers over the years and has dedicated her career to the proper administration of justice. To say that she will be missed is the ultimate understatement.”

During her 28 years on the bench, Young has served as chief judge of the 52nd District Court, the Oakland County Probate Court, and the Oakland Circuit Court, posts where she has been offered the opportunity to display a keen sense of leadership. In particular, she has been a judicial force with the drug court program in Oakland County since 2002, helping guide graduates from lives of despair to roles of responsibility.

A Michigan State University alum, Young began her professional career as a social worker, spending two years in the role before enrolling at Wayne State Law School. After five years in private practice, Young was appointed deputy court administrator for the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court in 1979. Three years later, she was named court administrator/judicial assistant, succeeding Fred Mester when he was appointed to the Circuit Court bench.

In 1988, she was encouraged to run for a Probate Court seat, eventually earning the nod from Oakland County voters despite an initial reluctance to seek elective office. Campaigning, she has acknowledged, was never in her “comfort zone,” even though Young has won a series of election races in 1998, 2004, and 2010 after being appointed to the Circuit Court.

Young has been active with a host of community, charitable, and professional organizations throughout her judicial career, serving as co-founder of the Women’s Bar Association of Oakland County in 1976 and chairing the Michigan State (Teacher) Tenure Commission from 1979-83. She also has served on the board of directors of Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit, the board of the Michigan Opera Theatre, and numerous other organizations dedicated to family and foster care causes.

In 2007, the Child Abuse and Neglect Council of Oakland County paid special tribute to the Circuit Court jurist by creating the annual “Honorable Joan E. Young Foster Parent of the Year” award. Last year, she was honored by the Oakland County Board of Commissioners with the Hilda Gage Award for Judicial Excellence. The honor is presented annually to a current or former judge who “serves the community with integrity, skill, and courage.” Young was the first female recipient of the award, which was named in honor of the late Hilda Gage, a distinguished state Court of Appeals judge who preceded Young on the Circuit Court bench.