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Judge Stephen M. Brown


January 13, 1997–December 31, 2015

Elected; Retired

Born in Yakima, I served as president of my 1961 Ike Hi graduating class. I am a loyal 1965 University of Washington graduate who worked through college on an athletic scholarship, briefly trying football, and Co-Captaining the track team. I enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve and completed the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps program. Upon my 1965 graduation, I volunteered for what turned out to be five-years of active duty as a Regular Army Airborne--Ranger Infantry officer. I was privileged to serve in command and special operations assignments in Germany, Vietnam, and lastly as an instructor at the Florida Army Ranger Camp, In 1970 I left active service to enter law school.

The GI Bill helped me through Florida's Stetson University College of Law. After my 1973 graduation, I landed an associate's job back home at Velikanjue, Moore & Shore, partnering there in 1974. I established my sole general practice in 1979, adding a part-time Municipal Judgeship in Selah in 1982. The next year, I was appointed a Yakima County Superior Court commissioner and elevated to Judge in 1988 by Governor Booth Gardener. I was elected to the Court of Appeals, Division 3, for my first term beginning January 1997 and served there continuously until my retirement December 31, 2015. At that time, I was the senior judge of the courts of record and had served as Division Chief Judge, and Presiding Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals.

Since leaving the courts, I have been an Adjunct Professor teaching Constitutional Law, Civil Liberties, Ethics, and Political Science at Heritage University near Toppenish, Washington. HU is the sole liberal arts university located on Native American land in the United States, the Yakama Nation, HU's student body consists mainly of previously under-served Hispanic and Native American students who are offered a mix of undergraduate, graduate, and specialty courses in its College of Arts and Sciences and College of Education.

Reflecting on my time at Division Three, It was a great pleasure to telecommute from my home in Yakima and then travel through the vast and beautiful Eastern Washington landscape to Spokane. Like my predecessor, Ray Munson, I slept in my chambers, and brought meals to the court so I could work to leave my draft opinions behind and get to work on the next docket. I believe we worked together to honor abide by the traditions, and standards of those who preceded us. The chamber's and court's staff were always a tremendous help. They were the best!

I doubt anyone could ask more of life's adventures or have as many reasons to be as happy as I am. Currently I am engaged directly in higher education and awed by the mix of students, most aspiring to become the first in their families to attend college and struggling to find their way. I have had the privilege of serving my community, state, and nation as a lawyer, judge and military officer. I have been humbled to have been trusted to try to resolve the most complex disputes submitted to our courts and at the appellate level to factual records, legal rulings, and discretionary decisions of trial judges on the heated front line of decision-making. I have served with the finest judges serving the rule of law fairly and impartially, whose sole profit motive is public trust and confidence. Who could ask for more? It used to be said that the law is a jealous mistress, (paramour might be more gender neutral nowadays). I am guilty of contributing to the truth of this saying. Therefore, my sole regret is not being able to better balance my home and professional life. At this writing, I have six children, two came with my dear wife, Lesley. Happily, my youngest, Martin, is a high school freshman who recently lettered in cross-country and I am grateful to be present whenever possible at all his school activities.


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