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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. He TIL team,please zap this comment too since it was merely marking a scammer and not reflecting on the story. Thanks, happy Monday, keep up the fine work.

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  3. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: http://media.star-telegram.com/Munchausenmoms/ Here are the two research papers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213487900810 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213403000309 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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