SPARTANBURG, SC (WSPA) — Candidate for Greenville County probate judge Chad Groover (R) is hoping his background in elder law and experience in the federal government will help him get elected on November 8.
The following interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. This is what he said.
Can you introduce yourself and talk about your background?
“I’m a native South Carolinian. I’m from Florence County, where I was born. When I was a child, my father was in the Air Force. We traveled the world. And then when it came time to go to college, I came back to South Carolina and went to Bob Jones University here in Greenville, South Carolina.
“After studying biology there and getting a degree, I went off to law school at Mercer down in Macon, Georgia, and did my time there, got the degree, and then went up to D.C., where I worked for the next eight years.
“I was spending most of that time working for Senator Chuck Grassley. I was his crime counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee, so I did a lot of oversight of DOJ and FBI and Department of Homeland Security in that post-9-11 world.
“I was with Grassley from 2001-2006. Then fearing that I would be stuck on Capitol Hill for the rest of my life, I decided to go to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where I was an organized crime prosecutor for two years as a special assistant U.S. attorney.
“That was a phenomenal job. We really did a lot to put drug trafficking drug crime in check while I was there. And then I met my wife who lived here in Greenville and got married and moved back home and I’ve now been here 14 years. We set down roots, raised a family, and have two lovely kids, 8 and 11.
“And we built a strong, vibrant law practice. And I’ve done a great deal of probate work over that time exclusively to do litigation in probate court here and throughout the rest of the upstate. So we’ve been able to build something here in the Greenville community, and I want to just continue to contribute to this community.
What things in your background can you apply to the probate judge position that might set you apart?
“As Senator Grassley’s crime counsel, my job was to make sure that the federal government in the areas that I was responsible for was doing its job appropriately. So oversight is important, making sure the court functions properly and transparently.
“The role of the probate judge is partially as an administrator. You’re responsible for 34 employees and you’ve got to make sure that it’s a well-run system. And Greenville has a great reputation and I’d like to contribute to keeping that and improving it.
What would you like to change if you were elected probate judge?
“There always there’s always room for improvement. And I think one area is customer service, making sure that we’re focused on the needs of the customer. Because remember, this is a court that serves people and not just litigants. So we can make sure that the very best in customer service is available for millions that come before the court seeking to administer their estates.
“We want to improve the way we connect with the public; so making sure that the public understands what the probate court does. It is shocking to me how many people have no idea what the probate court does. We want to make sure that the court is open and obvious to everyone so they have a better idea of how it functions and what it does.
“There’s room for improvement in technology. Electronic case filing is something that other courts have, which I think offers a very good and positive benefit, and I think the probate court here should have it.
What attracted you to estate law and how did you end up making it your career?
“I asked myself that question sometimes because I’ve done a lot of things. I was a federal prosecutor. I was a Hill staffer and senior attorney on the Judiciary Committee. And in private practice, I’ve done a little bit of everything. So when I moved back to Greenville in 2008, I said, You know what, I’m going to see what practicing law is like.
“I’ve been in the bubble of D.C. I’ve been a federal prosecutor. Let’s see what real-world practicing law looks like. And I started taking anything that walked in the door and within a few years, it was fairly clear. I didn’t like family court, I didn’t like criminal defense, I didn’t like personal injury. I really didn’t like business law, but I loved probate.
“And before I knew it, I inched my way into being a full-fledged estate planning and probate lawyer, and then a lawyer named Frank Dana whom many people in Greenville knew and loved was kind of the father of elder law in our county and in most of the Upstate.
“He pulled me aside and said, ‘Why don’t you come in with me? I’d love to have you as a partner. Let’s do elder law together.’ And so I learned how to be an elder law attorney; how to represent seniors with an eye toward their long-term care needs.
“And all of the probate work and estate planning work is is a subset of that elder law function that I have. We’ve done a lot of good for thousands of clients and tried to do what we can for the Greenville community.
How did elder law become your passion?
“It’s kind of funny because when I worked for Senator Grassley on Capitol Hill, I worked on what’s called the Elder Justice Act.
“It was a bill that had been sponsored by Senator John Breaux, a Democrat from Louisiana. Senator Grassley was one of the co-sponsors of it. And we worked really hard on it and testified in Congress over it. So I got my first taste while I was still in D.C. But when I came back to Greenville and started doing private practice the more clients there I started to meet, the more I saw the needs.
“And I had two great aunts who didn’t have family that could take care of them. And my grandmother down in Florence, when she was still living, called me and said, ‘Chad, your Aunt Myrtle needs help. Can you come?’ Or Chad, ‘You’re your Aunt Pauline up in Virginia needs help. Can you come help?’ And as the only attorney in the family, you get those calls.
“And I was able to help them through their last days, not really as a personal caregiver, but as a distant caregiver, making sure that they were OK, making sure they were legally protected, making sure they had Medicaid to cover care for themselves.
“And in that in that personal experience, I developed a love for seniors and a love for making sure they’re protected. I mean, this is the Greatest Generation that we’re talking about that fought World War Two that led up to the Korean War. This is that generation. They deserve so much of our gratitude. And as a lawyer, I had the ability to come alongside them and help.
As a probate judge, do you have a platform or is that different from typical political candidates?
“It is different. I’m glad you asked that question because it’s something people don’t think about. Politicians that run for the legislature or to be the president or the governor or an executive function, have a platform.
“It’s sort of like what Chief Justice John Roberts said years ago at his confirmation hearings, which I was present for because I worked on them as a staff member on the Judiciary Committee.
“I can remember looking across the room and hearing him say, ‘Judges call balls and strikes. They don’t enact anything. They’re not there to create law. They’re not there to enforce a platform. They’re there to call balls and strikes. This is what the law says. Here’s the set of facts. How did the facts in the law relate to each other?’
“That’s what a judge is supposed to do, and that’s what I would do as a judge.”