"Justice does not begin at the courthouse door; nor does it end there," says North Carolina District Court Judge Craig Brown (G'88).
Brown, 39, learned about the complexities of justice long before Governor Jim Hunt appointed him to the Durham bench in September, to fill a retiring judge's seat. Judge Brown recalls when he was a young attorney representing "a raging alcoholic" in a capital murder trial: The defendant couldn't remember anything about the events leading up to the charges against him.
Brown decided it was time to do something about the lack of long-term residential treatment facilities for alcohol and drug abusers. He helped to launch the Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers. TROSA is a residential program in which participants must learn three job skills and get a high school diploma or equivalency degree, in addition to receiving treatment.
The new program created three new business services-catering, house painting and furniture moving-which provide employment for TROSA residents and revenues to make the program completely self-sufficient. This fall, in the aftermath of Hurricane Fran, the program added another business-a tree removal service. "You can never let an opportunity go by," Brown explains. Today, TROSA has 100 residents.
Judge Brown understands about overcoming disabilities to achieve success. He has been legally blind since 1992 because of a rare and untreatable illness known as Behcets Syndrome. But he doesn't think it's a disadvantage when it comes to administering justice. "Now, what someone looks like has no bearing on the verdict I render," he says. "What you can't see is usually more important than what you can."
Brown enjoys the opportunity to put his public policy degree to work in court. "Too often in the real world, you don't get to step back from the trees and view the forest, see where the gaps are," he says. "That's what my graduate PPS degree allowed me to do and that's what being a judge also allows. There is a tremendous amount of opportunity for me to use my public policy training in the large sense."