Westmont Magazine James the Judge
Jim Brown ’64 never gave much thought to becoming a judge. After six months on the job, he now recognizes that his whole life has prepared him for the task.
Gov. Pete Wilson appointed Jim to the Superior Court of Santa Barbara County in July 1998. A lawyer with the Santa Barbara firm of Mullen and Henzell for 28 years, Jim put his name into the hat only after his oldest daughter sent him an unusual gift.
Twenty-six-year-old Katharine was studying at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary near Boston, a city associated with the cradle of American political institutions. She found and sent her father an antique gavel.
It started a seed of interest, Jim says. He began to talk to colleagues about the idea, and ultimately submitted an application to the governor for appointment to one of the vacancies coming up on the court. Jim says he is not a political animal, and was pleased that Gov. Wilson did not emphasize politics in the appointment. Jim found himself surrounded by friends and associates who knew the political landscape and, after some remarkable coincidences, received the call from Sacramento.
Today, Jim says he can “surely see the hand of the Lord” in the process and outcome.
Jim attended Westmont in the early 1960s, and received his bachelor of arts degree in philosophy in 1964. His mentor, Dr. David Hubbard, encouraged him to attend seminary, and Jim got his bachelor of divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena in 1967. From there he went on to law school, and earned his juris doctor degree from Boalt Hall at Berkeley in 1970.
Jim joined Mullen and Henzell in 1970 and became a partner in 1975.
The Browns are closely connected to Westmont. His wife of 36 years, Dr. Janet Harley ’65 Brown, also attended Westmont, and today is a researcher in education at UCSB. Janet’s father, Willard Harley, was a Westmont professor, and her brother Bill Harley ’63 (who was Jim’s roommate at Westmont), also taught at Westmont.
Jim and his wife have three daughters. Katharine received her master’s degree from Gordon-Conwell and is considering pursuing a doctorate. Karen, 25, recently graduated from UCSB and married. Kristin, 22, attended Gordon College near Boston and has returned to Santa Barbara to pursue her love of music and voice.
While managing a law firm involves not only the practice of law but business as well, being a judge is “a very pure practice of law,” Jim said. He has come to realize that every decision he makes profoundly affects the people involved.
And he sees, too, how his studies leading to degrees in philosophy and divinity, as well as his faith, values and compassion, have prepared him and inform his work on a daily basis.