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Judge Joe Brown, the non-traditional presiding judge of the syndicated reality courtroom show JUDGE JOE BROWN, is committed to making a difference in people's lives – and he does as the show is now in its fourth season.
From 1990 until April 2000, Judge Brown served as a judge of the Shelby County Criminal Courts in Memphis, Tennessee, where he introduced a new way of sentencing first time, non-violent offenders with riveting results.
I tried not to sentence anyone in the conventional way if I could think of a better way to get their attention, says Brown. Judge Brown's unusual method of administering justice stemmed from his childhood. Born in Washington, D.C., he relocated to South Central Los Angeles as a young boy. The only child of hard-working teachers, Brown formed his tough-love philosophy early on. Judge Brown became the first African-American prosecutor for the City of Memphis, and then director of the City of Memphis Public Defender's Office. In 1978, he launched his own private practice. In 1990, he returned to public service where, recognized for his sincerity, passion and justice he was soon elected Judge of Division 9 of the State Criminal Courts for Shelby County. Today he often spends his weekends in the toughest parts of Memphis, following up on cases, and helping kids and teens to stay out of trouble and steer clear of activities that could put them in jail – or a coffin. I listen to young people talk about what's happening in their world, and I tell them about how I survived South Central, Judge Brown says. Because I overcame the street life and got a good education, they tend to listen to me more than most adults, and I think I give them hope. My goal is to encourage them to become productive members of society, instead of potential inmates who waste their young lives away.
Judge Brown's alternative sentencing thrust him into the national spotlight. His recognition was further intensified after he was assigned to reopen the case of the late James Earl Ray, convicted assassin of the late Martin Luther King, Jr. But it was his appearance on Nightline that caught the attention of Big Ticket Television president, Lawrence A. Lyttle, who was impressed with Judge Brown's magnetic and dynamic personality. Lyttle traveled to Memphis to meet him, where he quickly realized Brown's unique background, charisma and unusual courtroom style was perfect for television. Currently living in Memphis, where he actively participates in the upbringing of his two young sons, motivational speaker Judge Brown sees his work on television as the best way possible to make a difference, just like his parents did while he was growing up.
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