This oral history interview with Anna J. Brown was conducted by Jan Dilg in Portland, Oregon, from October 31, 2019, to October 8, 2020, as part of the United States District Court of Oregon Oral History Project. The interview was conducted in eight sessions; the first sessions were conducted in Brown's chambers at the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse, and sessions six through eight were held at Brown's home.
In the first interview session, conducted on October 31, 2019, Brown discusses her family background, including the experiences of her parents in Germany during World War II, and their experiences as German immigrants in Portland in the 1950s and 1960s. She talks about her early life in the Sellwood neighborhood of Portland, including taking care of her mother after she had a stroke in 1968, her experiences as a child of German immigrants, and her education at Catholic schools. She discusses her college experience at Lewis and Clark College and at Portland State University. She then speaks about her experiences studying law at Northwestern College of Law and working as a law clerk. She talks about getting a job as a lawyer for the Bullivant firm in Portland, about her first day in court, and about her strategies as an introvert for managing the responsibilities of a lawyer and judge.
In the second interview session, conducted on November 13, 2019, Brown speaks further about many of the topics covered in the first session. She talks about her marriage to Paul Brown, and speaks at length about cases she worked on as a lawyer with the Bullivant law firm in Portland.
In the third interview session, conducted on January 16, 2020, Brown discusses her involvement in professional associations, including the Oregon State Bar, the Multnomah County Bar, and the Oregon Association of Defense Counsel. She shares her experiences as a woman in the legal profession in the 1980s, and talks about the importance of diversity on the bench. She speaks about her service as a judge on the Multnomah County Circuit Court from 1992 to 1994 and on the Multnomah County District Court from 1994 to 1999, including her appointment process and about learning how to be a judge on the job. She describes the differences between being a state judge and a federal judge, talks about cases she presided over, and discusses the use of technology in both state and federal courtrooms.
In the fourth interview session, conducted on February 6, 2020, Brown discusses her involvement with the Oregon Women Lawyers and the Oregon Women Judges associations. She speaks about the history of women on the Oregon bench, and further discusses her service on the Multnomah County Circuit and District courts. She describes the courtrooms she worked in, talks about people she worked with, and discusses how technology was used in courtrooms at the time of the interview. She talks about the case administration systems of the state and federal courts, discusses her experience presiding over Philip Morris v. Williams, and speaks about sentencing guidelines. She closes the session by summing up her legal career.
In the fifth interview session, conducted on February 20, 2020, Brown discusses her service as a judge on the U.S. District Court of Oregon from 1999 to the time of the interview. She speaks at length about her appointment and describes her investiture. She talks about her law clerks, about attending training for new judges, and about her fellow judges. She discusses how technology has changed the way judges and law clerks conduct research, talks about the cost of access to legal databases and research materials.
In the sixth interview session, conducted on September 3, 2020, Brown discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic and the George Floyd protests affected the operations of the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse during the summer of 2020. She then continues to discuss her service as a judge on the U.S. District Court of Oregon. She speaks further about judges she worked with on the bench, and describes her early days as a District Court judge. She discusses the role of magistrate judges in the U.S. District Court of Oregon, talks about how the court protects witnesses, and discusses differences in the way districts operate. She discusses her process for making decisions and how the COVID-19 pandemic affected that process. She talks about the history of the U.S. District Court of Oregon, then shares her reasons for taking senior status in 2017.
In the seventh interview session, conducted on September 17, 2020, Brown continues to discuss her service as a judge on the U.S. District Court of Oregon. She describes how she manages her courtroom, and talks about cases she heard, particularly cases regarding the federal no-fly list and the occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. She talks about how she interacts with juries, about her involvement in professional associations, and about lawyers and judges who mentored her.
In the eighth and final interview session, conducted on October 8, 2020, Brown discusses her methods for mentoring aspiring lawyers, including through internships, high school mock trial programs, and speaking to law school students at Lewis and Clark College. She talks about her involvement with the Inns of Court association, about her official judicial portrait, and about receiving a lifetime service award from the U.S. District Court of Oregon Historical Society. She shares her judicial philosophy and discusses how her background influences her philosophy. She then speaks further about her reasons for taking senior status in 2017 and about her activities since then. She closes the interview by talking about her plans for the future.