Judge David Brewer

Oregon Court of Appeals

If your faith in the law is thin or if you have lost sight of why you chose the law as a profession, sit down for five minutes with David Brewer. His love of the law and commitment to the profession are infectious. His presence is both humble and commanding. He is passionate and committed but also kind and professional. And if the measure of a man is partly reflected in the words or deeds of those close to him, then he is as good as they come. His children exhibit the same desire to learn and explore as their father. His son spent some time in Romania and teaches in Korea, his daughter studied in Chile. And those who know Judge Brewer are enthusiastic in singing his praises.

David Brewer was born in Modesto, California, in 1951. His father was a farmer and his mother a school teacher. He lived near Modesto until he was 15 and moved to Marin County where his mother took a position as a school administrator. After high school, he attended California State University at Sonoma where he studied economics and received his bachelor of arts degree in 1974.

He chose the law, in part, because of his mother; it was what she had always wanted to do. He chose the University of Oregon School of Law and recalls being "scared to death" that first day, certain that he was not smart enough to be there. So certain that during his first semester he took the civil service exam and was prepared to begin work as an engineer in California. When he left for winter break, he packed everything into his 1964 Volkswagen bug (the hood tied down with a coat hanger) and headed home to California. But he came back. Even with his insecurities, he knew he had made the right choice - he loved every class, he lost track of time reading law school texts, and none of it ever seemed like work. And the friends he made in law school are among those he continues to count among his closest.

Out of law school he started working with Herb Lombard in private practice. It was a true general practice, taking anything that came in the door. Not surprisingly, he remains close friends with his partners from his civil practice.

He did not plan to become a judge; he loved his private practice. But a group of lawyers from Eugene asked him to consider a vacancy on the Lane County Bench because of his business background. He agreed to "put in" but, out of concern for his clients, he resolved that if he was not appointed, he would not try again. He was appointed to the Lane County Circuit Court in 1993 by Governor Barbara Roberts. When he got the call from the Governor, he initially believed it to be a friend playing a joke until she reassured him of her identity.

When asked about memorable experiences in Lane County, he recalled his first criminal trial. A teacher had been hit head-on by a meth dealer. After the trial, she was being threatened in the hall by the dealer's friends. Judge Brewer heard the commotion from his chambers and started to run out. His judicial assistant, Sharon, grabbed him by the collar and said, "Kid, you just got here, don't go home with blood on your dress." He got the message: The role of a judge is different.

While his appointment to the Court of Appeals happened in much the same way as his Circuit Court appointment, to him was an even greater surprise. Prodding from colleagues, combined with his thirst for new experiences and knowledge, prompted him to apply. He has been at the Court of Appeals since 1999 and now serves as its chief. As a judge, his work ethic is well known. As the chief, the judges describe him as one of the best "managers" they've worked with.

He is a man who allows his conduct to speak for itself. When asked to reflect on his career, Judge Brewer wasn't forthcoming about the "big" cases. He truly believes that every case is important and that every person deserves the chance at justice. More in-depth research shows myriad accomplishments: helping two sides reach a plea agreement in the Kip Kinkel shooting case, facilitating a settlement in the litigation surrounding the new hospital in Springfield, being appointed by the US Supreme Court to conduct pre-hearing investigations in the PERS litigation (only a few of his high-profile cases).

At this point in his career, when passion for the law and justice might be waning, Judge Brewer's is insatiable. He is distinctly aware of the challenges facing the preservation of an independent judiciary and is not daunted. He appreciates the role of a judge is an important and unique one in preserving and promoting democracy. He remains committed to and actively involved in ensuring that legal services are available to all. He is an inspiration, albeit a reluctant one.

Originally authored by Jennifer Oetter and printed in the September 2005 Multnomah Lawyer
Updated for the Internet in 2007