Lady of the Law: Jane Young, NH Deputy Attorney General

 

Deputy Attorney General Jane Young walking across the street to her office in Concord, NH

Lady of the Law: Deputy Attorney General Jane Young

Written by Crystal Ward Kent

From investigating a sexual assault case at a prestigious private school to missing children and horrendous murders, Deputy Attorney General Jane Young has seen it all.  New Hampshire is a relatively low-crime state, but even the most congenial regions can have a darker side. For several decades Young has been a steadfast presence in handling a wide range of criminal investigations for the Granite State.

Some of these cases have captured the national spotlight, but even in the glare of media attention, Young has kept a low profile, noting, “I’m an under-the-radar kind of gal.” When a famous missing person case turned into a murder investigation, she reminded the swarming media that, “This isn’t about me. It’s about (the victim). This is my job. I do my job because I love my job.”

Those words define Young and the passion she brings to her career. She is down to earth, low-key, sharp and professional. She is also clearly driven to “do the right thing” and is a tireless champion for the rights of victims and their families. It is that drive that keeps her going in a job that could easily burn out many an attorney, thanks to the long hours and heavy emotional toll.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office is a busy place, handling hundreds of cases each year. In addition to homicides, kidnappings and sexual assaults, the office handles drug prosecution, consumer fraud prosecution, environmental litigation, and officer-involved shootings, as well as everything in between. In her role as Deputy Attorney General, Young is a key watchdog for the wellbeing of New Hampshire’s people. Though she rose through the ranks as a criminal prosecutor, she now assists the Attorney General with overseeing every aspect of the office, as well as 65 attorneys, each with their own significant case loads. In addition, she works closely with the newly-created position of Solicitor General, which coordinates all of the appellate cases for both the state and federal courts.

Class in the Courtroom

Jane Young in her office in Concord, New Hampshire

Young is no stranger to the courtroom and continues to carry a significant caseload herself, despite her growing administrative duties. A New Hampshire native, she earned her law degree from the former Franklin-Pierce Law School in 1989. After graduation, she took a position as an assistant with the Hillsborough County Attorney’s office, and it was there that she was introduced to the courtroom. “I gained great experience at Hillsborough,” Young recalls.  “I loved the work and the people there. I spent two years at Hillsborough and then wound up assisting the Attorney General’s office with a case. A few days later, I got a call with a job offer.  I was honored, but also torn. I really hated the thought of leaving a job and a team that I loved, but at the same time, it was a huge opportunity. I decided that a door had opened, and I should go through it—so I did.”

She spent the next 11 years investigating criminal cases, starting first as a drug prosecutor, then adding homicide prosecution to her area of expertise. She argued cases before the state’s Supreme Court a number of times. She became chief of the Criminal Justice Bureau in 2007, having earned a reputation as an excellent prosecutor with great empathy for victims and their families. “Each case has its own challenges,” she says. “You never know what direction a case may take, or where information may lead you. I just try to do my best. My goal is to bring what little comfort and closure I can to the victims or to the families left behind. We can never take back what happened and make everything as it was before, but we can try to ease some of their anxiety during the judicial process, and do our best to make sure that justice is done.  That is always my number one priority—to do my job to the best of my ability and to seek justice for the victims.”

Young has handled a number of high profile cases, including that of Celina Cass, a shy, 11-year-old girl who went missing from her tiny northwestern New Hampshire home. After a seven-day search involving more than 100 law enforcement officials from the U.S. and Canada, FBI profilers, Internet crime specialists, dive teams and child abduction experts, Cass’s body was found about a half mile from her home. Her stepfather was later charged with her murder. Young also prosecuted the seven-week insanity trial of Sheila LaBarre, helping convince a jury that LaBarre was in fact, sane, and guilty of two counts of first-degree murder.

Deputy Attorney General and Attorney General

 

Young admits that each case “takes a little piece of you,” and that you never really forget those involved. “Each family is different, but at the same time, you find this common connection. We are all human beings and we all feel loss, sadness and pain. That binds us together on some level.” Despite the obvious emotional toll that some of these cases can inflict, Young is able to take them in stride. “You do see a lot, whether it’s a homicide or drug trafficking, or a missing person—either way, families are shattered,” she says. “I think I cope because I’m essentially a well-grounded person. I have a loving family and outstanding friends. I run—although very slowly! I have a full life with a lot of things to distract me so I’m not living the job every minute of the day.”

Young’s current position as Deputy Attorney General has her overseeing a broad breadth of areas and “learning something new every day. I’m excited to be learning new aspects of the law that I was not exposed to before. Most of my career has been on the criminal side, so now I am learning much more about civil litigation. It’s all fascinating.” However, her passion remains being in the courtroom, and she has been thrilled to still have a caseload, even though that adds to a pretty full plate.  “I tried a murder case in May for two weeks. Trying a murder case gives you a meaningful purpose,” she says.  “I was able to focus on just one task, and ensure that justice was served.”

In Young’s job, there is no typical day, which she is well accustomed to. “I just accept that whatever my day is going to bring, it will NOT be what I had planned,” she laughs. “I can start out working through paperwork and the phone will ring and I have to go to a homicide. It impacts your home life as well. Two weeks ago, on a Saturday night at about 7:00, the phone rings and it’s the State Police. There had been an officer-involved shooting. Off I went to provide whatever guidance I could to the attorneys on call, and to the Attorney General, who also responded. You have to be prepared to deal with whatever happens when it happens, because it’s not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when.’ You know that call is going to come.”

According to Young, New Hampshire averages about 20 homicides per year and that number had remained relatively unchanged in recent years, but the number of officer-involved shootings has gone up dramatically. “When I first started, back in 1999, we saw one of these maybe every other year, now we see three to six per year, and this year, we have had two within a 45-day period,” she says.

“The opioid crisis has also led to an increase in numerous crimes,” she notes. There has been a significant increase in drug arrests, drug trafficking, and drug-related crime due to the rise in addiction. This problem has taken a major toll on families in so many ways.”

Making a Difference

As a woman working her way up through the legal system and government positions, Young says she never felt anything but supported. “I had a number of wonderful mentors along the way, and I’ve found New Hampshire’s legal community to be very close. It’s a small state, so sooner or later, you meet almost everyone.  I’ve been fortunate to have some great colleagues, bosses and trial partners.”

Young encourages other women considering the law or a role in government, to take advantage of key opportunities and build a good network of relationships. “If you have the chance to do an internship at the County Attorney’s Office or Public Defender’s Office, take it,” she advises. “Anything that will get you into a courtroom is good experience. And, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of building relationships. New Hampshire is very collegial. You may oppose someone in the courtroom one day, and a few years later find that you are in their courtroom, or that they are your boss, or are assigned to be your partner in an investigation. No matter how heated things become in the courtroom, never make it personal. Sooner or later you will work with everyone in the state, and you need to be able to make that relationship work. It’s so much better if the person you’re standing at a crime scene with at 2 a.m. is a colleague and not an enemy.

“My first boss gave me good advice when I was starting out,” she continues. “He said ‘Your career path is a long straight road, so treat everyone with respect.’ That’s advice I’ve tried to follow every day, and it’s worked well for me!”

Young hopes that her being Deputy Attorney General motivates other young women to explore a career in the legal system. “The law is a noble profession,” she says. “You can make a difference. You may never see some of the victims or their families again, but you can be satisfied knowing that for one key moment in their lives, your work mattered. You were there for them and you did something that counted, even for some small measure.”

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