Peter Kouten, a member of Charleston Law’s first graduating class of 2007, describes becoming an associate probate judge in Charleston County as a “natural progression.”
In many ways, Kouten, who was sworn in on June 29, is “coming home” to his new position. Kouten was a law clerk at the court immediately after law school and then practiced solely probate and estate planning for eight years at his firm, the Kouten Law Firm.
“I am honored to be appointed to a position to help people get the care and assistance they need,” Kouten said. “Becoming a probate judge seems to be a natural progression from what I was doing as a probate attorney and it is gratifying to help people on a different platform.”
“Having known Peter as a friend, a law clerk, and a practicing attorney for many years, he has the experience, demeanor and compassion to be an excellent judge. We are glad to have him at the court,” said Charleston County Probate Judge Irvin Condon.
As one of four judges, Kouten will preside over all areas of the court, including mental health commitments, adult guardianships, conservatorships, and estate cases. The court also has adult and juvenile drug courts and a mental health court, and will soon start a veteran’s court. Kouten spent three years in the Marine Corps and looks forward to being heavily involved with the veteran’s court.
Although Kouten’s legal career has been a direct path to the probate court, his path towards law school was less direct.
Born in Philadelphia and raised in nearby New Jersey, the 57-year-old Kouten moved to Charleston to follow family tradition and attend The Citadel. After his third semester, he left and joined the Marine Corps. He later returned to Charleston, graduating from the College of Charleston in1988 and earning a master’s degree in business administration from The Citadel in 1992.
With MBA in hand, Kouten formed what would become one of the largest and most successful home inspection companies in Charleston. He put the idea of law school on hold while raising a family with his wife Callie. When Kouten read an article about a new law school in Charleston opening, the father of three seized the opportunity and did not look back.
Kouten is grateful for his decision to attend the Charleston School of Law and credits the professors and staff members who mentored him along the way and the school’s emphasis on public service. “I have been molded by the unselfishness of those at the Charleston School of Law,” he said during his investiture ceremony. “Those who have passed on experience, strength and hope intentionally or by example.”
Surrounded by family, friends and colleagues, Kouten celebrated the natural path of his legal career.
Story and photos by Michelle Mensore Condon