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Judge Anna J. Brown: “Fundamentally inclined toward solving problems” –Lifetime Service Award 2019

 

By the beginning of her senior year at St. Mary’s, Anna was the oldest child at home and now facing a new range of responsibilities to help care for her mother and younger siblings. She recalls, “When I really didn’t engage at school for college planning and didn’t sign up for the SATs, the Sisters noticed and were not going to have any part of that. ‘No, no, you’re going to college.’” The Sisters ensured Anna was signed up to take college entrance tests and that necessary fees were paid. “I was told ‘Be here on this day, and you take the test. Let’s see where it goes from there.’”

1970 graduate of St. Mary’s Academy.

After Anna did well on the tests, the Sisters researched local college options and secured financial aid packages. They made the case to Anna—and ultimately to her father—that she could attend college and still be at home to help as needed. “They showed up at our house one day in their holy habits and all. ‘Here are the papers, she’s got a scholarship and other financial aid; she can go to college and still be home by 5:00.’” When Adalbert couldn’t muster much opposition to that showing, Anna Jaeger started down the surprising road to becoming Judge Anna J. Brown.

Starting at Lewis & Clark College in the fall of 1970, Anna expected to become a high school chemistry teacher, mostly because her favorite teacher at St. Mary’s taught chemistry. During her early pursuit of an education degree, Anna spent time in a high school classroom and quickly concluded that teaching at that level would not be a good match for her. In fact, she found her part-time work-study job as a records clerk at the Lake Oswego Police Department to be much more interesting. She looked for opportunities at work to fill in where needed, and soon she was working full time, first as a graveyard-shift dispatcher and later as Lake Oswego’s first woman community service officer (which included duties as an animal control and parking enforcement officer).

A 1973 newspaper photo of the Lake Oswego Police Department’s first female community service officer.

Anna soon concluded her ongoing college studies weren’t worth the time away from family and work, and she quit college in the middle of her sophomore year. Realizing she ultimately would need a college degree to help support her family, Anna met with a Portland State University counselor a year later to explore options. Anna emphasized she would have to keep working full time while continuing in college, and, other than having ruled out an education major, she didn’t have any particular profession in mind. Trying to draw her out, the counselor asked what subjects held her interest. Anna demurred, insisting she sought a degree in any discipline that would provide enough income to support the family while adding, “Oh, and I can’t pay for college.” When the counselor learned that Anna was working full time as a 911 operator for the City of Portland, she described a federal college funding program through the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration that provided full tuition funding to police officers and other law enforcement personnel (like 911 operators) to attend college while still working full time (with a two-year work obligation to follow graduation). PSU’s Administration of Justice Program qualified for that funding, and Anna enrolled immediately.

Most of the faculty were local lawyers teaching criminal law subjects. Because of her recent work experience, Anna already had an interest and appetite for the material. One instructor, W. Michael Gillette, then working for the Oregon Department of Justice (before joining the Oregon Court of Appeals and then the Oregon Supreme Court), repeatedly encouraged Anna to think about law school. After graduating from PSU in 1975, Anna still owed two years of service to her employer. With ongoing family responsibilities, law school didn’t seem realistic. Nevertheless, she continued to receive encouragement from her good friend, Paul T. Brown, a lieutenant with the Lake Oswego Police Department, to go to law school, and, after a 911 co-worker bet her that he could earn a higher score than her on the LSATs, Anna paid the fee and took the test. Although she lost the bet (her co-worker neglected to mention he was a member of MENSA), she did pass the first hurdle for going to law school. Feeling she had nothing to lose, she took the next step—applying for admission to the Evening Division of Northwestern School of Law (now Lewis & Clark Law School).

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