The Montana Law Review hosts a biennial Browning Symposium and an annual Browning Distinguished Lecture in Law. These events are named in honor of the late Judge James R. Browning, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Judge Browning, who grew up in Belt, Montana, graduated from The University of Montana School of Law in 1941. He was a member of the first editorial board of the Montana Law Review and ultimately served as Editor-in-Chief. Judge Browning passed away May 5, 2012.
In September of 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Judge Browning to the Ninth Circuit, where the Judge served until his retirement. Prior to joining the Court, Judge Browning served as Clerk of the United States Supreme Court.
Judge Browning served with distinction as Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit from 1976 to 1988. As Chief Judge, Judge Browning was credited with reorganizing and modernizing the administration of the Ninth Circuit. Thanks to his political savvy and remarkable leadership skills, Judge Browning was successful in keeping the Ninth Circuit intact despite persistent efforts to divide the Circuit.
In 1991, Judge Browning received the American Judicature Society’s coveted Edward J. Devitt Award for Distinguished Service to Justice. In September of 2001, the State Bar of Montana bestowed on Judge Browning the Bar’s highest honor, the William J. Jameson Award. In 2005, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals building in San Francisco was renamed the James R. Browning United States Courthouse.
Judge Browning was married to Marie Rose Chapell, also a University of Montana graduate. Together, they have been a powerful force in ensuring that the modern Ninth Circuit is marked by inclusiveness and collegiality.
Judge Browning died on May 6, 2012 in Marin County, California. In honor of Judge Browning, the Montana Law Review dedicated its Winter 2012 issue in his honor. For the issue, several of Judge Browning’s former clerks wrote short stories reflecting on their time with him.