By Linda Kor
To be considered for a seat on the highest court in the state is no small honor. The standards and abilities required for that consideration are not easily attained. As the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments reviews applicants for a current vacancy, one name may be especially familiar to northeastern Arizonians.
Judge Michael J. Brown has served as an Arizona Appeals Court judge for the past six years, but started out as a ranch hand on the family ranch in St. Johns. The son of Jack Brown, who recently retired after serv-ing for 36 years in the House of Representatives and as Assistant Minority Leader, Brown has been raised not only to work hard, but also to have an appreciation for the law and the freedoms we enjoy.
After graduating from St. Johns High School in 1983, Brown attended Brigham Young University for a year before serving a two-year mission for his church in Lima, Peru. Upon his return, Brown returned to BYU, graduating cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in information management.
“I was working in Salt Lake doing computer processing and, honestly, doing the same thing day to day was making me crazy. My brothers Doug and David had a law firm in Pinetop, so I decided I would try my hand as a lawyer and went to law school,” stated Brown.
While in law school he served as a writing instructor and research assistant at Arizona State University College of Law, a legal intern for the majority counsel at the Arizona State House of Representatives, a law clerk under Judge Michael C. Nelson at the Apache County Superior Court and a legal intern at the ASU Col-lege of Law Prosecutor’s Clinic for the Town of Gilbert Prosecutor’s Office.
After obtaining his Juris Doctorate degree from ASU College of Law, once again graduating with honors, he went to work at Brown & Brown Law Offices with his brothers.
“I ran for Superior Court judge for Navajo County in 2000 against Gloria Kindig and she thumped me,” he said with a laugh. “It was a good learning experience and I met so many people, went to chapter meetings and spent time on the reservation. No, I didn’t like the outcome but I learned a lot.”
While at Brown & Brown, he was employed by the City of Show Low and then the Town of Snowflake as legal counsel. He remained with the firm from 1993 until 2006 when he applied and was selected as one of 22 judges in the Arizona Court of Appeals.
“In relation to a trial judge in Holbrook, the Court of Appeals is way different. We don’t interact with the public and have three judges on the bench to listen to each case, hearing maybe only one case a week. It in-volves a lot of review and research; an entirely different experience from what you get in a Superior Court room,” he noted.
According to Brown, any ruling can be appealed and heard in the Court of Appeals, but the Supreme Court handles things a bit differently. “The Supreme Court is very discretionary, meaning it may refuse to review the findings of the lower court. But in appeals involving the death penalty, those automatically go to the Supreme Court for review,” he said.
Although working in Phoenix, Brown and his wife Tiffany still have a home in Pinetop, and spend time in the area reconnecting with friends and family when they can.
“I think I have a unique perspective by having my roots in rural Arizona. My background and this job have prepared me well if I should be selected. I believe I have a lot to offer Arizona,” he said.
Brown was one of 17 candidates who applied to fill the current vacancy on the Supreme Court and the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments recently reduced that selection to nine, including Brown. Other applicants still under consideration include Christina M. Cabanillas, Kent E. Cattani, John C. Gemmill, Philip L. Hall, Diane M. Johnsen, Douglas L. Rayes, Ann A. Scott Timmer and Lawrence F. Winthrop.
The commission is now seeking public comment on the candidates being considered. Written comments can be sent to 1501 W. Washington, Suite 221, Phoenix, AZ 85007 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comments should be received no later than Aug. 16 to be considered and anonymous comments cannot be considered. The commission will then select three of those applicants on Aug. 20 as recommendations to Governor Jan Brewer, who will make the final selection.
By Linda Kor