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The City Journals

Veteran attorney Christopher Bown named new Taylorsville judge

Apr 28, 2021 01:19PM ● By Carl Fauver

As Mayor Kristie Overson (R) looks on, new Taylorsville judge Christopher Bown addresses the city council. (Taylorsville City)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

As Taylorsville rapidly approaches its 25th anniversary as an incorporated city (July 1), the community has still had only one Justice Court judge, ever. But after a nearly nine-month search, a second one has finally been found. And the newcomer has every hope and intention of remaining the city’s judge for the next 25 years.

“I am excited to start this new chapter of my life,” said new Justice Court judge Christopher Bown. “[Becoming a judge] has been my goal for many years. It’s a job I think you can do until you hit mandatory retirement age. I am 48 now, so if my math is right, I would be here for the [Taylorsville City] 50th anniversary (in 2046), at age 73.”

In other words, Bown is excited about his new post, and has no plans to use it as a stepping stone to anything else.

Bown was unanimously approved for the $150,000 per year job by the Taylorsville City Council during its April 7 meeting.

“I have read through your [application] material, and it is very clean,” Councilman Ernest Burgess said after the vote. “You are very attentive to your people. I know the mayor has taken her time [in reaching her recommendation], and we are excited to welcome you aboard.”

“We are really excited to welcome him to Taylorsville,” Council Vice Chair Anna Barbieri added. “He will be a great addition.”

Bown replaces the Honorable Michael Wei Kwan in the Taylorsville court, following his unexpected death last July. Kwan, 58, died at home of natural causes. His passing was not coronavirus-related. Kwan had been the city’s justice court judge since 1998.

“I never thought I would have to appoint a judge, and the responsibility weighed heavily on me,” Mayor Kristie Overson said. “It was a big decision. I took full advantage of the 30 days I had to make the choice, methodically going through all of the [applicants’] materials. I am absolutely confident I chose the most qualified person.” 

The mayor cited Bown’s 17,000 hours of courtroom experience—for both the prosecution and defense—as a key factor in her decision. Overson was also impressed by how well known the new judge already is within the city’s court system.

“He has everything we need,” she said.

Most recently, Bown has been a partner in Stowell, Crayk and Bown PLLC, the law firm contracted to provide court-appointed legal council to Taylorsville Justice Court defendants who are unable to retain their own attorney. Douglas Stowell has filled the appointed council role primarily. However, Bown has filled in a few times, arguing cases before the man he’s now replacing on the bench.

“I did appear before Judge Kwan several times, and I learned some things from him,” Bown said. “One thing I always enjoyed with him was his ability to mentor young attorneys who appeared before him. He wanted to help them succeed. Judge Kwan also really cared about the [defendants] who appeared before him. He really listened to them.”

Since being named the new judge, Bown has been divesting himself of his partnership in Stowell, Crayk and Bown. His first day as Taylorsville Justice Court Judge was May 1. After some required training, he expects to begin hearing his first cases the week of May 24.

“Whether people are happy after appearing in my court is not my priority or goal,” Bown said. “But I want them to feel they’ve been listened to. One of my top priorities is to make sure they feel they have been heard.”

One of Bown’s advantages during the hiring process was his ability to clearly understand defendants before him, in two different languages.

“I served a [Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] mission in Bogota, Columbia, from 1992 to ‘94,” he said. “That’s where I learned to speak Spanish fluently. I was there when Pablo Escobar was taken out.”

The infamous drug lord Escobar was shot and killed by Colombian police on December 2, 1993 in Medellin, 250 miles northwest of Bogota. His drug empire made him one of the richest men in to world, with an estimated worth of $30 billion. 

Bown was barely two years out of high school when Escobar’s death made international headlines. The 1991 Hillcrest High School graduate said, “There’s been some talk about a (30th high school) reunion this summer, but nothing is official yet.”

After returning from Columbia, Bown earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from BYU in 1996, finishing in just three years. From there it was on to the University of Utah Law School.

Despite attending the two NCAA athletic rivals, the new judge says his loyalties were never split.

“I grew up a University of Utah fan and remained loyal during my BYU days,” he said. “I attended BYU because they gave me a full-ride Presidential Scholarship. I wore blue to their games, except when they played Utah. Then I wore red and took a lot of grief from my friends.”

Before starting law school, Bown married his wife, Nicole, on February 12, 1998. The couple have three children. Daughter Alexandria is a finance major at Southern Utah University. Son Will is a junior at Riverton High School, where he is a member of the Silverwolves’ soccer team. And son James, 11, is a North Star Academy fifth grader who also plays soccer.

When not wearing his black robe, the judge says you are likely to find him and his family outdoors.

“We love to hike, and we boat at Lake Powell whenever we can,” he said. “We just enjoy being outside.”

Bown had four different interviews before finally being chosen Taylorsville Judicial Court Judge. He said the process began in January.

But now, if the new judge remains in the post for the 25-plus years he anticipates, he’ll never have to interview for another job again. 

Instead of being judged by potential employers on the other side of a desk, Bown will instead be the one doing the judging.