An Enterprise native who has devoted nearly 40 years to being the “voice for the voiceless” has been elected president of the Alabama Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Association.
Paul A. Young is the new president of the statewide association whose purpose is to “foster, maintain and encourage the integrity, independence and expertise of defense lawyers in criminal cases.
“ACDLA is an organization through which criminal defense lawyers can formulate and express their position on legislation, court reform, and other matters affecting the administration of criminal justice in Alabama,” according to their website. “The ACDLA serves as the unified voice of the state’s criminal defense community. Its primary mission is to promote excellence in the practice of criminal law.”
The son of the late Paul and Ann Young, Paul Young shakes his head and smiles—sort of—as he considers a legal career that has spanned nearly four decades.
After graduating from Enterprise High School in 1966, Young attended the Ozark Aviation School for two years. He joined the Air Force and remained on active duty for four years.
Returning to Enterprise, Young graduated from what was then called Enterprise State Junior College and then graduated from Troy University.
After graduating from the University of Alabama Law School in 1979, Young returned to Enterprise and practiced law with the late Thom Haigh.
After Haigh left to work for Legal Services, an organization providing free civil legal aid for low income people, Young practiced solo “for a long time,” before joining Elba attorneys Debbie Jared and the late Gareth Lindsey. “That was a great experience,” Young said about the man he names as one of two mentors.
“The greatest compliment that I ever got, I say the greatest one because of who said it, was from Gareth Lindsey,” the prominent long time attorney said. “I had been practicing law maybe three or four years and I was in district court. Mr. Lindsey was there and after I got finished, he came up to me and said, ‘Boy, when you first started practicing law, they would run over you. They might run over you now but they are going to know, by God, that they hit something.’
“That’s verbatim what he said,” Young said, laughing at the memory. He also named long time Enterprise attorney Joe Cassady Sr., as a person he learned from. “I always looked up to those two men. I’ll tell you something else, I wanted to be them so I started out my practice trying to be them,” Young said.
But it was at his first ACDLA seminar that Young learned what he considers a life-changing lesson. Young found himself sharing an elevator with one of the presenters, Jerry Barksdale. “I told him that I really appreciate what he said and that it helped me a lot.”
“Let me give you the best advice I can give you: be yourself,” is what Barksdale told Young.
“In a single three minute elevator ride, everything changed,” Young said. “I realized I couldn’t be anybody else and be successful.”
That is a lesson Young said that he has tried to impart with the young lawyers that he has worked with over the years. “I’ve always tried to encourage them to be themselves,” Young said. “Each of them has talents and advantages that I haven’t had.”
Young has served as president of the Coffee County Bar Association for 15 years. He is a lifetime member of the ACDLA and has served on the board of directors for more than a decade. He received the ACDLA President’s Award in 2004 and 2007.
Young is a recipient of two highest awards that a criminal defense lawyer in Alabama can receive. In 1994, he was awarded the Alabama State Bar Association’s Clarence Darrow Award for his contributions to the integrity of criminal defense.
In 2009, Young was also awarded the ACDLA’s Roderick Beddow Lifetime Achievement Award for Criminal Defense, the most prestigious award given by the organization for his service in criminal defense.
“I didn’t get here by myself, that’s the main thing I want people to know,” Young said. “My wife, Shawn, has certainly supported me in every kind of way.
“And I have been very fortunate to have good people working with me,” he said citing Marsha Jordan and Ginger Anderson in particular. “They have been with me the longest.”
Young said he has no plans to retire. “I can’t, I have a daughter in law school,” he said smiling, visibly proud of second year law student, Cheyenne.
“It just sometimes leads me to tears from being so proud that she has that same compassion about her that her father does,” said Shawn Young. “And that she got it directly from him. Their thought process is so welded together.”
Shawn Young cited a court case in which her husband represented an Enterprise man who served two years and 103 days in prison before the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals overturned his murder conviction in 1989. “That was really the beginning of Paul’s real fight for the unfortunates of the world,” she said. “It just really sparked a flame that has never diminished. From that time in his life, Paul has just never let up on any kind of case.
“And I see that in Cheyenne,” Shawn Young added. “Even as young as she is, her thought process amazes me. I see so much of him in her. It thrills me to no end that her heart is in the right place.”
“When I first started in law, there were the indigent (legal) appointments that paid $20 an hour for in-court time, $10 an hour out-of-court time, with a $500 cap on almost every case,” Young said. “Nobody wanted to do the indigent appointments because they were not much money.
“I didn’t grow up in the legal profession so I was taking what cases I could get,” Young said. “I did so much of it, that is how I guess my reputation got started for helping these people who had no voice.”