“One day that could be me.”
That’s what Courtney Chaplin ’07 remembers thinking during a tour of the South Carolina Supreme Court during the pre-law Interim in 2005. He and the other students interested in a career in the law had stopped to look at the photos of the five sitting justices at the time, three of whom were Wofford graduates.
“Becoming an attorney and eventually a judge was a dream as a kid,” he says. “Seeing those Wofford graduates in that place made me realize that this could really happen.”
On May 3, 2018, Chaplin became the youngest superior court judge in Connecticut history. Now he spends his days listening to both sides, considering constitutional perspectives and ensuring that justice is served.
“My goal is to be a better judge tomorrow than I am today,” says Chaplin. “Every day I’m learning something new, facing new challenges and touching lives in new ways.”
After graduating from Wofford, Chaplin enrolled in Howard University School of Law.
“Thurgood Marshall was one of my heroes,” he says. “I chose Howard because I wanted to walk those halls and be a part of that legacy — and because I got a full scholarship.”
Chaplin graduated from Howard in 2010 then went on to do a clerkship in New Haven, Conn. He conducted legal research, wrote for judges and gained insight into judicial demeanor — how they interacted with staff and presented themselves in the courtroom, chambers and the back hallways of the courthouse. Chaplin followed that experience with work in the appellate court system, then for a small insurance defense firm. He was in the state’s attorney’s office when he was nominated for judgeship.
“The practice of law can be difficult — high stress, late nights, early mornings. Still, I always try to be kind to people. I try to treat everyone with sincerity and respect,” says Chaplin.
He continues to benefit from the lessons he learned at Wofford as a Spanish and government double major with concentrations in political theory and international relations.
“Wofford was a rigorous academic environment,” he says. “I learned how to learn in new ways and develop heightened analytical skills. I juggled majors, worked and was involved as president of Amnesty International. I developed a strong work ethic, and I still think in terms of universal systems and with a global perspective.”
By Jo Ann Mitchell Brasington '89