VOL. 121 | NO. 71 | Thursday, March 30, 2006
Memphis Law Talk
Judge William Brown Discusses May Retirement
LESLEY J. GUDEHUS | Special to The Daily News
"My wife and I own a home in Colorado, so we will divide our time between there and West Tennessee, and we'll spend more time with our grandchildren. I also will devote more time to continuing legal education because I believe it is important."
- Judge William Houston Brown
Name: Judge William Houston Brown
Position: Bankruptcy Judge for the Western District of Tennessee
Basics: Brown, who has served in his position for 19 years, plans to retire May 31.
As Judge William Houston Brown prepares to hang up his judicial robe, he reflects on 19 years as a federal bankruptcy judge for the Western District of Tennessee.
Brown, who grew up in Union City, taught history and political science on the college level for several years before receiving his law degree in 1973 from the University of Tennessee's College of Law in Knoxville. Soon after, he began his private bankruptcy practice in Jackson, Tenn.
From 1984 to 1985, Brown served as visiting associate professor of law at the University of Wyoming's College of Law. From 1985 to 1987, he taught law at the University Of Mississippi College Of Law.
The recipient of numerous academic and professional honors, Brown assumed his current role in October 1987. He plans to retire May 31.
Q: Why did you become a bankruptcy judge?
A: I had many years of experience practicing and teaching bankruptcy law, and I was teaching at the University of Mississippi when I was applying to be a judge. During the process, Judge William Leffler passed away and I replaced him. Congress had just created an additional seat on the bankruptcy court bench in this district. ... So I was in the right place at the right time.
Q: What is one of your most significant cases?
A: One that jumps out is the Julien (Cotton) Co. bankruptcy case. It went on for years. [Initiated in 1990, this case was one of the largest Chapter 11 reorganization cases ever filed in West Tennessee. Julien Hohenberg's personal bankruptcy protection case was settled in 1996, but the company's case dragged on for more than eight years.] Judges like big cases like that because the lawyers are good, the issues are interesting and the cases themselves are unique.
Q: How has the system changed over time?
A: No. 1, the number of cases has increased - it's just mushroomed. Most recently, of course, the law changed significantly with the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005. This is a huge rewriting of the bankruptcy code.
Q: What are your retirement plans?
A: My wife and I own a home in Colorado, so we will divide our time between there and West Tennessee, and we'll spend more time with our grandchildren. I also will devote more time to continuing legal education because I believe it is important. ... Of course, when I was practicing law in Jackson, I was involved in community theater. I sang the lead part in "Hello Dolly." I wasn't the greatest dancer then, but you never know.
Editor's Note: To read more about changes in the local bankruptcy court, see March 27's trends and analysis focus.