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

 

“From the Trenches to the Benches.” Good wishes from friends and colleagues in 1992.

After 10 years in private practice, Brown began dreaming of becoming a judge. She applied for various openings, placed first in several bar polls, and after being told “not yet” several times, she received “the best news of my career” when Governor Barbara Roberts appointed Anna J. Brown to the Multnomah County District Court in 1992. Judge Brown ran unopposed for that position in May 1992, and Governor Roberts appointed her to a Circuit Court vacancy in 1994 for which she again ran unopposed later that year. Judge Frankel praised her colleague and friend’s organizational skills and her ability to keep things moving. “Anna didn’t go onto the bench believing she was some figurehead sitting at the front of the room. She understood instinctively that the more the parties or issues, the more at stake, and the greater need for the judge to be organized.” Judge Frankel helped Judge Brown realize every judge has days when they must say “That’s enough. That’s it!” to the attorneys in front of them. Whenever their busy dockets allowed, Judge Frankel recalls, “We used to walk the waterfront on the days she’d had to say, ‘That’s it!’ We walked a lot faster on those days, for some reason.”

 

Judge John C. Beatty, Judge Anna J. Brown and Multnomah Bar Association President Cynthia Barrett enjoy a chuckle at the 1992 investiture ceremony.

 

Learning the ropes on the other side of the bench, Judge Brown recalled working with jurors as Judge Beatty’s law clerk. She learned that most jurors came to the courtroom quite unaware and anxious about all that was expected of them, how they were to conduct themselves, or how long jury duty could keep them from their busy lives. She tried to follow Judge Beatty’s practices to put jurors at ease, to help them understand legal issues, and to empower them so that they knew that they could actually do the job. “Judge Beatty repeatedly emphasized to people the extraordinary importance of a jury trial as a key part of our system of justice. I learned early on that it was fundamental to a fair jury trial that jurors were engaged in the process, knew that the court and parties valued their time, and knew we would not ask them to sit around waiting for us while they worried if they were going to have to reschedule their work and family commitments the next day. In particular, I learned how much the answer to the simple question ‘How long is today going to take?’ meant to somebody who had kids in childcare or to an employee who wasn’t going to get paid while on jury duty. I learned the answer to that question should also be as important to a judge, court administrators and trial lawyers.” Judge Brown continued to learn about jury-management by serving on the Oregon State Bar uniform jury instruction committees for both criminal and civil jury trials. “There I learned how to write a neutral, accurate statement of the law in words jurors could understand while deliberating on a verdict. And I received the added benefit of learning a great deal of Oregon law on the many substantive issues state trial judges must process.”

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