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Legal community remembers longtime judge

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On Sept. 17, hundreds of people gathered at the Jackson County Courthouse in Brownstown to celebrate the life of Judge Robert R. Brown, who died Sept. 12. Judge Brown, who was 78, retired as Jackson Circuit judge in 1999 after 28 years on the bench.

In 1999, Judge William Vance was appointed as Jackson Circuit judge. He recalled that his predecessor was known for his outstanding character.

“The one comment that you’ll find more and more is that he really was a gentleman,” Judge Vance said. “He was quiet, he was respectful – I don’t know of any judge who respected litigators and litigants more.”

Indiana Supreme Court Justice Steven David recalled that when he was a young lawyer, he tried his first case in Judge Brown’s court.
 

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“I was prepared but extremely nervous,” Justice David said. “He easily recognized my nervousness and calmed me down. I will never forget that. I appeared before him on several occasions thereafter. I am not sure I ever ‘won’ any of my cases before him, but he was the consummate judge.”

Justice David said that Judge Brown was a mentor to young lawyers.

“When I was elected judge of the Boone Circuit Court, he was one of the first sitting judges to send me a congratulatory note,” Justice David said. “The many, many years that he served the citizens of Jackson County are indicative of the great man that he was.”

Jennings Circuit Judge Jon Webster also recalled Judge Brown’s importance to young lawyers.

“When I began practicing in 1982 and up until I took office in 1987, I tried many cases in front of Judge Brown, and he was always … very patient, and that meant a lot to me,” Judge Webster said. “More importantly, when I took office in 1987, he took me and many other young judges under his wing, treated us as equals, and was always a mentor. He was a very down-to-earth guy.”

After Judge Brown retired from the bench, he served as a senior judge and certified mediator throughout southern Indiana and joined the Seymour law firm of Montgomery Elsner & Pardieck, where he successfully mediated more than 500 cases.

Judge Brown had been president of the Indiana Judges Association, a member of the Indiana Supreme Court Rules Committee, and a hearing officer of the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission. He also served as counsel to the Democratic caucus of the Indiana House of Representatives, where he drafted Indiana’s Horizontal Property Regime (Condominium) law. Judge Brown was the founder of the Jackson County Juvenile Group Home, which since 1979 has provided an alternative to jail or institutionalization for juvenile offenders.

Judge Brown was born in Whiteland and graduated from Franklin College, where he was the president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. He was a U.S. Army veteran and earned his law degree in 1963 from Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis.

He formed the Seymour firm of Whitcomb & Brown with Edgar D. Whitcomb, who later became secretary of state, then governor, of Indiana.

In 1965, he was appointed by Gov. Roger Branigin to serve as prosecutor of Jackson County and was elected to that post in 1966, where he served until his election as Circuit judge of Jackson County.

In recognition of his service to Indiana, Judge Brown was named a Sagamore of the Wabash, the state of Indiana’s highest civilian honor, by Govs. Whitcomb, Robert D. Orr, Evan Bayh, and Frank O’Bannon. O’Bannon’s widow, Judy O’Bannon, spoke at Judge Brown’s memorial service.

He is survived by his wife, Donna; brother, William (Sue Ann) Brown, Indianapolis; sister, Sue (Don) Lockmiller, Johnson City, Tenn.; son Jeffery Brown, Seymour; son Douglas (Constance) Brown, Indianapolis; daughter Kristen (Douglas) Bryant, Greenwood; seven grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to Jackson County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) or Brownstown Presbyterian Church through Spurgeon Funeral Home in Brownstown.•

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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