A California native, Charles McLaughlin was born in La Porte, California, in 1861, and educated in the grammar schools of that county. He was admitted to the California Bar in Quincy, June 20, 1887, and was elected District Attorney of Plumas County, a position he held from 1886 to 1890. He was elected Judge of the Superior Court of Plumas County in 1896, and served there until 1905, when Governor Pardee named him to the newly created Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, an office he left at the end of his appointed term, when he lost the election to Albert Burnett in 1907. After leaving the bench, he returned to the private practice of law, and in 1914 was appointed by Governor Hiram Johnson to be Director of the State Prison Board, a position he held until 1930. McLaughlin gained considerable notoriety as a zealous advocate of the Silver Creek Project while he was on the board of the Sacramento Utility District. He died June 8, 1938.