Joe Brown (judge)

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Judge Joe Brown
Born (1947-07-05) July 5, 1947 (age 72)
Other namesJudge Joe Brown
Alma materUniversity of California, Los
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Deborah Herron

Joseph Blakeney Brown Jr. (born July 5, 1947), known as Judge Joe Brown, is an American lawyer and television personality. He is a former Shelby County, Tennessee, Criminal Court judge and a former arbiter of the arbitration-based reality court show Judge Joe Brown.

Early years[edit]

Raised in the Crenshaw District of Los Angeles, Brown graduated as valedictorian at Dorsey High School, then in 1969[1] earned a bachelor's degree in political science and in 1973 a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree at UCLA. While attending law school, Brown worked as a substitute teacher. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.[2]


Brown became the first African-American prosecutor in the city of Memphis. He would later open his own law practice before becoming a judge on the State Criminal Court of Shelby County, Tennessee.

Brown was thrust into the national spotlight while presiding over James Earl Ray's last appeal of Ray's conviction for the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Brown was removed from the reopened investigation of King's murder due to alleged bias—former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney of Georgia wrote that Brown told her and the Congressional Black Caucus, unequivocally, that the so-called murder rifle was not the weapon that killed Martin Luther King, Jr.[3] It was during this time that Judge Brown caught the attention of the producers of Judge Judy.

In March 2014, Brown won the Democratic primary for the position of Shelby County district attorney.[4] He lost the general election to Republican incumbent Amy Weirich by 65% to 35%, after making comments about her sexuality.[5][6]

Personal life[edit]

Judge Joe Brown is twice divorced and has two sons from his first marriage.[7]

Legal issues[edit]

In March 2014, Brown was arrested in Memphis, Tennessee, and charged with five counts of contempt of court and getting "verbally abusive" during a child paternity case overseen by Referee/Magistrate Harold Horne. Brown, who retains his law license, was reviewing a child paternity matter as a favor to an acquaintance who had been falsely accused by a former stalker of being the mother of his daughter. It developed that she had never had a daughter and the alleged accusations had been dismissed years earlier.

Brown has had a 40 year long conflict with the Shelby County Juvenile Court concerning practices reflecting allegations of racial bias. This animosity was accompanied by various successful Habeas Corpus Petitions Brown prosecuted on a pro bono basis against them as a private Attorney and one case of note wherein he presided over a similar matter as a Judge acting in an appellate capacity. The Shelby County Juvenile Court attempted to evade compliance with his appellate orders by alleging misconduct. The State Supreme Court held that he was acting appropriately and cleared him of any wrong doing.

Sources report that Brown has had a long standing animosity toward the Shelby County Juvenile Court after one in its’ long term judges with only a 6th grade education called him the ‘N’word on his first appearance before the court in 1974.

According to press accounts, Brown became combative and irate after Horne purportedly refused to discuss details of the case because he had personal matters to attend to. Brown countered that the Court had violated orders that he himself had issued regarding biased and discriminatory conduct toward minority litigants.

Brown was sentenced to five days in jail,[4][8] but was later released on his own recognizance.[9] Brown surrendered to the Shelby County Sheriff on August 27, 2015 to serve his five-day sentence at the Shelby County Corrections Facility in Memphis.[10] He was released from the Shelby County Corrections Facility the morning of September 1, 2015.[11]


  1. ^ "HuffPost Live". Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  2. ^ "Courtroom bios". Archived from the original on August 1, 2010. Retrieved April 18, 2011.
  3. ^ Cynthia McKinney (18 September 2002). "Goodbye to All That". CounterPunch. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  4. ^ a b "TV's Judge Joe Brown Arrested In Tennessee". CBS Local. 25 March 2014. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  5. ^ "Former TV Judge Joe Brown Stumbles In Bid To Become Tennessee District Attorney". The Huffington Post. 8 August 2014. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  6. ^ Judge Joe Brown uncorks a shocker taunting Weirich about her sexuality - Memphis Flyer - Jackson Baker - July 2, 2014
  7. ^ All About Judge Joe Brown on WCHS-TV8
  8. ^ Oldenburg, Ann (25 March 2014). "Judge Joe Brown: The rant, the mugshot, the jokes". USA Today. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  9. ^ Duke, Alan (25 March 2014). "TV's Judge Joe Brown jailed after the elected judge affirmed the actions of the Attorney he had appointed as a referee following the courtroom flare-up, court says". CNN. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  10. ^ The Commercial Appeal. "TV judge Joe Brown begins 5-day jail term". MCA. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  11. ^ "Joe Brown released from jail". 1 September 2015. Retrieved 17 September 2015.

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