DHS Graduate



By Jerrie Whiteley
Herald Democrat

Hundreds of local attorneys, area judges and other distinguished residents took a couple of hours out of their day to honor United States District Judge Paul Brown at a retirement reception.

Brown took the bench in 1985 and assumed senior status, a type of semi retirement, in 2001. However, a couple of speakers at the reception pointed out that Brown’s supposed semi retirement turned out to be more active than most would imagine.

As Brown’s contemporaries, former clerks, and old friends reminisced about his life and love of the law, the judge stood near his wife of more than 50 years and smiled.

“I am honored to have served as a United States District Judge. I am grateful to President Reagan for nominating me in 1985 and the Senate for confirming me. I am grateful to Senator Phil Gram for having recommended me for that appointment,” Brown said the morning before his reception. At the reception, he thanked everyone who attended and the people who have been his friends and colleagues throughout his career.

He listened while Thad Heartfield, chief judge for the eastern district of Texas, reminded everyone that Brown was born on a farm in Grayson County as the youngest of six children born to Arthur C. and Frances Brown. He went to school at Oak Grove School before eventually graduating from Denison High School in 1943.

Heartfield said one of the things he really liked about Brown was the fact that, “He spent the better part of his childhood behind a team of plow horses on his parents 190-acre farm.”

He also teased that though Brown would not wear a burnt orange tie on the bench, it was possible to see the University of Texas Law School graduate “glow orange” just by mentioning the school. Heartfield said Brown is a “textbook member” of what Tom Brockaw called “the greatest generation.”

Heartfield said when he started thinking about what to say at the reception, he ran across something that Socrates said about judges. He took that information to District Judge Richard Schell and said he had found the perfect sentiment about Brown. Schell informed him that Brown had beaten him to the task by pointing out that Socrates’ four qualities for a good judge have hung on the wall of Brown’s chamber for years. Those qualities are, “to hear courteously, to answer wisely, to consider soberly, and to decide impartially.”

Heartfield said that Brown has lived his professional life in a pursuit of emulating those qualities. Brown’s former law clerk, Amos Mazzant, now a justice on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, said Brown then taught his law clerks how to implement those rules in their professional lives as well. Mazzant, originally from Pennsylvania, came to Texas to work for Brown and stayed. Mazzant said Brown “taught me that everyone deserves their day in court.” He added that Brown would often ask his clerks questions to which he already knew the answers just to see if they could defend their positions rather than just giving him the answers they thought he wanted. He was, Mazzant said, teaching them to think like judges or to “consider soberly.”

In addition to kind words, those who honored Brown also presented him with some tokens of their affection. Included among those were an announcement of a plan to have the courthouse over which Brown has watched as lovingly as his own garden all these years called the Paul Brown Federal Courthouse. Additionally, the lawyers who practice in the Eastern District of Texas pledged a large contribution to the Paul Brown endowed scholarship at the University of Texas School of Law. He also received a clock from the Grayson County Bar Association and a gift from the federal probation department.

Almost every attorney who has ever worked with Brown had something positive to say about him. Including his nephew Grayson Cunty District Attorney Joe Brown.

“He has certainly been a role model for me, and many other lawyers in this area as well,” said Joe Brown. They younger Brown joked that he asked the senior attorney if he wanted to come and prosecute cases.

“He turned me down,” Joe Brown said. “I have always admired his demeanor, his sense of right and wrong, and the way he controls a courtroom while being respectful to everyone involved,” Joe Brown continued. “Being a federal judge means you must, at all cost, avoid even the appearance of partiality or partisanship. As a result, for the last 21 years he has had to withdraw to some degree from some aspects social life. While I know he will miss the challenge of the courtroom, I expect he will feel liberated somewhat as well. I know he will be spending lots of time with his grandsons.”

John Moore, now the U.S. marshal for the Eastern District of Texas, remembered starting in Brown’s court as a deputy marshal.

“To be able to work under the direction of this outstanding gentleman has been a truly rewarding experience. I consider those early years with Judge Brown as the pentacle of my personal life and professional career. As the sole enforcement officer of his court I not only had the opportunity to observe his remarkable accomplishments in the courtroom, but also to witness his outstanding charter and work ethic behind the scenes in his chambers and law library where he would spend many hours carefully applying the law to each case while always considering the impact that his decisions would have on an individual or the community.”

Assistant United States Attorney Maureen Smith was out of town in the days before the retirement but answered a call for comments about Brown’s decision.

“I have learned so much about the practice of law in federal court from Judge Brown,” Smith said. “He sets very high expectations of lawyers who practice in front of him and because of that I feel like I have learned so much more about the practice of law, about courtroom demeanor, about professionalism, and I have had, and always will have, the utmost respect for Judge Brown. (His retirement) is a loss for our district. We will certainly all miss practicing in front of him.”

Smith was an assistant Grayson County Attorney before she entered the federal system and had tried large cases including some significant murder cases. She said none of that really prepared her for that first time up to bat in federal court.

“It was a little bit of a shock. The courtroom atmosphere is so much more formal, and Judge Brown in particular runs a very formal courtroom. It was would say it was a bit intimidating, although he was nothing but professional and helpful and pleasant to work in front of.”

Smith’s boss, Matt Orwig, also had praise for Brown.

“I would say that among the group of very talented judges he is right here at the top. He has done a tremendous job and seen a lot of growth in the Sherman division. He is smart, decisive and he gives all of the litigants a level playing field.”

Former Grayson County Attorney Bob Jarvis also said, “Judge Brown’s retirement is certainly the passing of an era. One of the things I respected about him was his consistency — you always knew what was going to happen. He was incredibly smart and knew the law better than any of the attorneys. I enjoyed trying cases in his court because he always gave me a little smile when he overruled my objections. I will miss him.”



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