Judge Paul W. Garfinkel was born in Charleston, South Carolina on August 10, 1944. His parents were the late Max Garfinkel and the late Jennie Kaufman Garfinkel who were married for 75 years before his mother died. He has an older brother, Howard, who is a retired physician living in Charleston. He attended public schools in Charleston and received his bachelor's degree in 1967 from the University of South Carolina. While in college he was a member of Phi Epsilon Pi Fraternity, Omicron Delta Kappa and Kappa Sigma Kappa. He attended the University of South Carolina School of Law, Columbia, S. C. from 1967 to 1970, receiving his juris doctorate degree in 1970.
After graduation from law school, Judge Garfinkel came to Charleston, South Carolina in 1970 to begin private practice. He was in a solo practice until 1989, when he joined the legal association then known as Riesen, Gardner and Felder, later known as Riesen Law Offices. Judge Garfinkel served on various State Bar committees, including the Insurance Committee and the Unauthorized Practice of Law. In 1991 he was elected as a Board member for the 1st Congressional District for the State Occupational Health and Safety Review Board. He held this position until June, 1995, including serving as state chairman from 1992-94.
He was elected by the South Carolina General Assembly to the position of Family Court Judge for the 9th Judicial Circuit in May 1995. He has served continuously in that position. Since being elected he has been Chief Judge for Administrative Purposes for the 16th Judicial Circuit from November 1998 through June 1999, and held the same position for Charleston County in 2000, Berkeley County in 2009 and Charleston County in 2011. He has been a member of both the Bench Bar Committee and the Children's Justice Act Task Force for over 13 years and was appointed to the Family Court Judges Advisory Committee in 2003.
Judge Garfinkel is a member of the South Carolina Bar Association and the Charleston County Bar Association. He is also a member and was, for 6 years, a National Trustee of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. He is admitted to practice in all South Carolina courts, the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court. In May, 2005, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters (D.H.L.) from the Medical University of South Carolina. Presently, he serves on the Charleston School of Law Board of Advisors. He has served on the advisory board and editorial board for various national and state publications dealing with juvenile and family law.
He is a member and past president of Brith Sholom Beth Israel Congregation in Charleston. He is married to the former Susan Naman of Houston, Texas and together they have five adult children, Jeffrey, Allan, Haskell, Eric and Emily (living in Atlanta, Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles, respectively.) Judge Garfinkel and Susan are the proud grandparents of 13 grandchildren (names too numerous to mention.)