There was a moment during Vonda Brown’s first years as a mother when she saw the power of a child advocate. That advocate was her own mother.
As she searched for daycare in her hometown in Texas, Brown recalls not being treated well by the owners of daycares and not knowing what to ask. Fortunately, her mother had come along and spoke up, advocating for her daughter and grandchild.
Years later, when she was a law student at Thurgood Marshall School of Law, the idea of being a child advocate stayed with her. “I’ve always viewed child advocacy and family law as a kind of civil right,” said Brown. “The importance of attorneys in what are very personal moments can’t be understated.”
After graduating law school, Brown joined the Texas attorney general’s office in 2016 and was an assistant attorney general in the child support division. There, she was appointed by courts to represent children and advocate for them in legal proceedings. “I often reflected on how much my mother helped me when I was a young mother,” she said. “She doesn’t have a law degree, but she sure knows how to advocate for her family.
“I saw how those support structures don’t always exist for people, which made our work so important.”
It was in the Texas attorney general’s office that Brown also gravitated to a culture of teaching; she spent the last three years in the division traveling the state, training new assistant attorneys general. She soon joined Mitchell Hamline as a part-time adjunct, teaching courses in administrative law, trial advocacy, and environmental law.
In 2022, Brown moved to Minnesota for a job at the ACLU of Minnesota. She admits the usually cooler weather was a draw from the Texas heat. But she also wanted to broaden her focus from one civil right—child protection—to more general civil rights work.
“When you think about things like civil rights in the South and other issues that are front and center, it’s hard to imagine those rights aren’t always on the minds of underrepresented communities like mine,” she said. In law school, she wrote an article looking at the history of civil rights for the law review.
Brown continued teaching at Mitchell Hamline after her move to Minnesota and jumped when a full-time position opened to teach legal writing. “I love legal writing,” added Brown, with a smile. “It was my best class in law school, but it also is just a thing I love doing.” She won an award in law school for her work in legal writing and on the law review.
Brown is married to her high school sweetheart with whom they now have seven children. She’s also looking to re-up with a band. Brown plays bass and keys and was in her sister’s zydeco band in Texas. Another draw to Minnesota was the influence and connection to Prince. “There’s a great music scene here,” said Brown. “I don’t see as much zydeco, though, so maybe that can be my next project.”
Mitchell Hamline faculty
The latest from Faculty in the News
Bloomberg January 29, 2024
KARE 11 January 25, 2024
Minneapolis Star Tribune January 18, 2024
The latest faculty publications
43 NAEPC Journal of Estate and Tax Planning (Dec. 2023) December 15, 2023
1(1) Journal of Aid in Dying Medicine 120-129 (2023) December 15, 2023
1(1) Journal of Aid-in-Dying Medicine 20-23 (2023) December 15, 2023
The latest faculty headlines
Mitchell Hamline Professor Ana Pottratz Acosta was part of a team of immigration attorneys that worked to pass legislation to allow Minnesotans to obtain drivers licenses, regardless of their immigration status. The effort was 20 years in the making an …
Dr. Agron Bajraktari, rector of the University of Applied Sciences in Ferizaj, Kosovo, visited Mitchell Hamline earlier this fall. Mitchell Hamline hosted Dr. Agron Bajraktari, rector of the University of Applied Sciences in Ferizaj, Kosovo, earlier th …
Assistant Teaching Professor Alisha Watkins ’20 Alisha Watkins ’20 is always looking for ways the child protection system can better reflect the reality of families’ situations. While laws and practices are designed to consider biological parents in a …