Jane Pansing Brown has had a lot of firsts. In 1988, she was the first woman to be named partner in a law firm in Clay County, and a few years later she was Clay County’s first female judge. Since 2002, she’s been an assistant U.S. attorney in Kansas City, specializing in tackling fraud and corruption cases.
What inspired you to get involved in the public service or justice system?
My parents inspired me to get involved in public service. My father was a 1954 UMKC Law School graduate, who worked for the federal government most of his career. He was involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis and opening the first oil pipeline in Alaska in the mid-1960s. My mother was a first-grade teacher for 37 years.
What is something that would surprise people about you?
In 1985, a judge told me I couldn’t come in his courtroom because I was pregnant. To avoid the negative consequences for my client, I stopped going at seven months along. By 1988, when I was pregnant with our second child, I decided to go to court anyway. The judge would not look at me the entire time or speak to me. By 1993, when I was pregnant with our third and last child, I was a judge!
What is the best advice you have ever been given or received?
Don’t ever forget your number one job as an attorney presenting evidence to a jury is persuasion, not just the presentation of voluminous information.
When you were growing up, what did you want to be?
From age 12 forward, a lawyer. I started watching Perry Mason reruns on a little black-and-white TV at age 10.
What has been your favorite part of your job?
I’ve really had three careers. As a federal prosecutor, my favorite part of the job is working in the area of health care fraud and environmental crimes and helping recover restitution for victims in fraud cases; as a judge, my favorite part of the job was truly listening to both sides and making the fairest decision possible; and as a lawyer in private practice, my favorite part of the job was advocating for my clients.