Judge Joe Brown is the non-traditional, no-nonsense, no-holds-barred presiding judge of his signature series, the daily, half-hour, syndicated, reality courtroom show, JUDGE JOE BROWN, which enters its 14th season on Monday, September 12, 2011.
From 1990 to April 2000, Brown served as a judge of the Shelby County Criminal Courts in Memphis, Tenn., where he introduced a new way of sentencing first time, nonviolent offenders with riveting results. His unusual methods of administering justice resulted from his childhood. Born in Washington, D.C., the only child of hard-working teachers, he relocated to South Central Los Angeles as a young boy, where he formed his tough-love philosophy early on.
"I grew up in one of the toughest neighborhoods in South Central Los Angeles," he said. "If you saw the movie 'Boyz 'n the Hood' that was the way I grew up. I watched my parents tough it out on a daily basis, and I saw that what really kept them going was making a difference to others. That's why today, making a difference to others is everything I'm about."
While nearly everyone in his neighborhood fell victim to the harsh realities and circumstances of living in the inner city, Brown chose education instead. His family later moved to the Crenshaw area, where he graduated from Dorsey High School at the top of his class. He went on to major in political science at UCLA, paying for his tuition by loading trucks and digging ditches. When a friend suggested he apply to law school, Brown became intrigued by the possibility of pursuing a legal career.
It turned out to be a perfect fit. Brown was a brilliant student and earned his law degree from UCLA while working as a substitute teacher. Upon graduation in 1973, he moved to Memphis, Tenn., to take a position first with Legal Services and then with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Within five years, he became the first African-American prosecutor for the City of Memphis and then director of the City of Memphis Public Defender's Office. Soon after, he launched his own private practice, and in 1990 returned to public service. Recognized for his sincerity, passion and justice, Brown was soon elected Judge of Division 9 of the State Criminal Courts for Shelby County.
Brown's well-known creative alternative sentencing thrust him into the national spotlight. His national recognition was further intensified after he was assigned to reopen the case of the late James Earl Ray, convicted assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Brown sees his work on television as the "best way possible" to spread the word and make a difference, just like his parents did while he was growing up. To commemorate his work with inner-city youth, Brown was honored at the Kennedy Center with The Olender Foundation's Advocate for Justice Award. He has also received many other awards in recognition of his innovation and service as a jurist, community leader and for his successful effort to demonstrate the law to millions of Americans via JUDGE JOE BROWN.
"It's simple," he says. "People should be kind, caring and humane. When they are not, it's my job to try and turn them around."
The father of two sons, Brown currently divides his time between homes in Los Angeles and Memphis with his wife, Deborah Herron Brown, whom he married in December 2001. When he's not presiding in the courtroom, he enjoys scuba diving, skiing and swimming with sharks. (literally!).
After a 19 year career in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Sonia Montejano joined Judge Joe Brown as the courtroom bailiff in 2006.
Montejano graduated from Rio Hondo Police Academy in 1988 after attending California State University, Los Angeles. She started her law enforcement career with the Los Angeles County Marshal Department, which was later absorbed into the Los Angeles County Sheriff'. There Ms. Montejano served within the Court Services Division, and was promoted to Senior Deputy in 1994.
Madam Sonia supervised security operations and deputy personnel at the Beverly Hills Courthouse for six years. During this time she created security plans for all civil and criminal trials, including high profile cases involving colorful celebrities such as Winona Ryder and Courtney Love.
A native of Northern Mexico, Sonia, who speaks fluent Spanish, and was raised in the Los Angeles area, where she continues to reside. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and volunteer work with her local historical society. A fitness enthusiast, she enjoys various outdoor activities, including mountain biking, jogging and gardening.
Court reporter Jeanne Zelasko applies her years of experience as a journalist to summarize each case for the audience on JUDGE JOE BROWN, the popular daily, half-hour, syndicated, reality courtroom series that enters its 14th season on Monday, September 12, 2011.
Zelasko is best known for her 12 years on air at Fox Sports. She joined Fox Sports in 1996 as part of the original broadcast team anchoring the newly formed Fox Sports Net's "National Sports Report." In 2001, she joined Fox's NASCAR broadcast team as a pit reporter.
From 2001 to 2008, Zelasko hosted the Emmy Award-winning "Fox Saturday Baseball Game of the Week" pre-game show. During her tenure she covered such memorable events as the 1998 Sosa-Maguire Home Run Race, the 2002 All Star Game, the 2004 Red Sox/Cardinals World Series and the record-breaking 2008 All-Star Game.
Zelasko's first taste of sports was early in her career, when she co-hosted the San Diego Padres' pre-game show for Prime Sports West, a regional sports network in Southern California. While working as an assignment reporter for the network, she covered a variety of sports including the NFL, NHL, college basketball and auto racing.
Zelasko started her broadcasting career during her college days doing metro traffic reports and hosting a talk show on KCEO-AM radio. Her television career launched at KDCI-TV News in San Diego in 1993, anchoring the weekend newscasts.
Born in Cincinnati and raised in New Jersey, Zelasko graduated from San Diego State University with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a minor in political science. She and her husband, Curt Sandoval, who is a sports reporter for the local Los Angeles ABC affiliate, reside in Los Angeles with their children.
The foregoing is for informational and entertainment purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice. "Judge Joe Brown," CBS Television Distribution, and its affiliates expressly disclaim any and all responsibility. If you have specific legal questions, or a situation in which you require legal advice, you should consult with an attorney in your area.