A reality television judge known for his intransigence with sentencing and his direct, no-frills method of addressing plaintiffs (an approach he refers to as "tough love"), Washington, D.C., native Joe Brown grew up in South Central Los Angeles as the child of two dedicated and diligent schoolteachers. Brown graduated from Dorsey High School in Los Angeles, then attended UCLA as a political science major and put himself through school by working extracurricular jobs as a ditchdigger and a truck loader -- an approach that carried him through his undergraduate years. Prompted by a friend to apply to law school, Brown then re-enrolled at UCLA and took legal classes while paying his expenses via substitute teaching. In 1973, after graduation, he relocated to Tennessee, accepted posts with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Legal Services, and in time worked his way up to become the first black prosecutor in Memphis history, and director of the Memphis Public Defender's Office. Following a 12-year tenure as an attorney in private practice, Brown received an appointment to Judge of Division 9 of the Shelby County State Criminal Courts in Tennessee, in 1990. Nearly a decade later, executive producer John Terenzio tapped Brown to headline the syndicated Judge Joe Brown, which began its run in 1998.