Retired U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Charles Brown Swartwood III, known to all as Brownie, died on November 16, 2023.
Brownie devoted his working career to public service and the law. After being admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1964, Brownie was employed by the Worcester law firm of Mountain, Dearborn, & Whiting, where he developed and maintained an active trial practice in both State and Federal Courts. In 1991, he was elected as a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers in recognition of his trial practice.
Brownie lived in Southborough, Massachusetts from 1965 to 1993, where he was elected as a selectman and for many years as town moderator.
In 1973, then Governor Sargent appointed Brownie as a Special (part-time) Justice of the Central District Court of Worcester, where he served until 1976, when the Massachusetts constitution was amended to eliminate all Massachusetts constitution part-time judges. Given the option of becoming a full-time judge or continuing as a part-time judge who could not practice law, Brownie resigned and continued with his trial practice and became active in the organized Bar, serving as President of the Worcester County Bar Association (1979-1980); an incorporator of the Worcester County Bar Advocates; President of the Massachusetts Bar Association (1989-1990); President of the Massachusetts Bar Foundation (1991-1993); appointed by the Supreme Judicial Court to the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers, where he served a term as Vice Chairman; and Trustee and Treasurer of Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, Inc.
A Distinguished Career of Public Service
In 1984, Brownie received the Ecumenical Award at the Worcester Red Mass in recognition of his contributions to his profession. While practicing law in Worcester, he represented, at no cost, numerous lawyers before The Board of Overseers, two of which cases were decided by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. In addition, Brownie was appointed by the Supreme Judicial Court as a Commissioner in connection with the investigation of three sitting judges, which resulted in discipline of those judges by the Supreme Judicial Court.
In 1993, Brownie was appointed the first full-time U.S. Magistrate Judge assigned to the then newly renovated U.S. District Court in Worcester. He served as the Chief Magistrate Judge from 2005 to his retirement in 2006.
After retirement from the Federal Court, Brownie went to work at JAMS in Boston as a mediator, arbitrator, and case evaluator.
In 2009, while working at JAMS, Brownie was appointed by Governor Patrick as Chairman of the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission, where he served until his term expired in 2013.
In 2010, Brownie was appointed as a Special Master by then Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke to investigate past penalty petitions against fishermen. He subsequently filed a report which was critical of past legal actions by NOOA against fishermen and recommended that some of those fishermen should be reimbursed for past fines.
Deep Roots in the Legal Profession
Brownie was born to Charles B. Swartwood, Jr. and Beulah Washburn on March 3, 1938, in Wellsville, New York, and thereafter, lived in Ithaca, New York while his father obtained his undergraduate and law degrees from Cornell University. Brownie’s paternal Dutch ancestors were early settlers of New Amsterdam. His paternal grandfather was a New York State County Judge and his father was a New York State Supreme Court Judge. Brownie’s maternal English ancestors (Washburn) were early settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony who eventually settled in Worcester, where they were involved in manufacturing and public service.
Brownie was a Trustee of the Southborough School and of St. Mark’s School as a result of their merger. He was a former President of the Worcester Club, long-time member of The Worcester Fire Society, the Yellow Label Club, the Holland Society of New York, the Tavern Club (Boston), and life-long member of the Cotuit Mosquito Yacht Club. Brownie was the third generation of both his mother’s and father’s families to spend summers in Cotuit (Cape Cod), where he was an avid racer of Cotuit Skiffs and Wianno Seniors and after his last Senior was destroyed in a yacht yard fire in 2003, he spent more than 40 days every summer sailing his Swedish Sloop, “Halve Man.” Brownie and his immediate family spent years skiing in the U.S. eastern and western mountains, Canada, and Europe.
Brownie attended the Park School in Brookline, the Hotchkiss School, from which he and three others were dismissed for borrowing the school jeep for a midnight ride; graduated in 1957 from Hebron Academy (Maine); in 1961 from Brown University; and in 1964 from the Boston University School of Law.
Brownie is survived by his daughter Hellie, her husband Malcolm Carley, and their three children: Sam, Ali, and Will; his son Alexander and his wife Cindy and their three children: Charlie, Sophie, and Whit; his son Thayer and his wife Heather and their twin sons: Auggie and Ham; his long-time companion, Heidi Baracsi; and his former wife, Judith Swartwood. Brownie’s first wife, Gaysie Curtis, died at age 29 and was the mother of his two oldest children. Additionally, Brownie was the oldest of six children; two of Brownie’s brothers, Peter and Jonathan, predeceased him, and he is survived by his sister, Caroline Blash, his brother Slater, and his sister Penny Brewer. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory can be made to the Association of the Cotuit Mosquito Yacht Club (ACMYC) for the pleasure and future of Cotuit skiff sailing.
(Checks payable to ACMYC and mailed to ACMYC, PO Box 1605, Cotuit, MA 02635 or online at http://www.acmyc.org/ Memo: in memory of Brownie Swartwood).