Skip to Main Content
Minnesota State Law Library Logo

Minnesota State Law Library

Calvin L. Brown, Associate Justice 1899-1912, Chief Justice 1913-1923

Calvin L. Brown

Portrait of Calvin L. Brown

Chief Justice Brown wrote the opinion in the Minnesota Supreme Court case of Mohr vs. Williams, foundation of the tort doctrine of informed consent. 


Calvin Luther Ludwig Brown was born in Goshen, New Hampshire on April 26, 1854. He came to Minnesota with his family in 1855.  His father was John Harrison Brown, judge of the 12th judicial district from 1875-1890.

As a young man, he pursued several fields, but finally took up the study of law under his father and was admitted to the bar in 1876. He settled in Morris in 1878, and married Annette Marlow on September 1, 1879. He was elected County Attorney of Stevens County in 1882, 1884, and 1886. He was appointed Judge of the Sixteenth Judicial District by Governor McGill on March 10, 1887, and elected to that office in 1888 and again in 1894. From there he was appointed Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court by Governor Lind to succeed Justice Buck in 1899. He was reelected to the position in 1904, 1910. In 1912, he was nominated for the position of Chief Justice as a non-partisan candidate, and subsequently elected in November to that office. He continued to serve as Chief Justice until his death on September 24, 1923. His tenure as Chief Justice was from January 7, 1913 to September 24,1923 for a total of 10 years, 8 months, and 17 days.

Justice Brown wrote the opinion in the Supreme Court case of Mohr vs. Williams, which was key in the development of the tort doctrine of informed consent.  

The book Testimony: Remembering Minnesota's Supreme Court Justices and Brown's obituary are the basis of this brief biography and provide additional information on his life.


Calvin Brown's signature in the Minnesota Roll of Attorneys

Image Credit: Calvin Luther Brown, 1916, photographed by the Lee Bros., courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society, por 14248 Lee 1,; Calvin Brown's signature in the Roll of Attorneys, Supreme Court, State of Minnesota, 1858-1970, p. 12. Available online at:

Highlighted Resources

  • Brown Family Papers at the Minnesota Historical Society:  Family histories (Brown, Carr, Maxfield, Gaston, and Marlow), genealogies, speeches, memorials, court calendars, newspaper articles, correspondence, autograph book, legal briefs, petitions, biographies, and printed miscellany from Chief Justice Calvin L. Brown, his father John H. Brown, and his son Montreville J. Brown.
  • Mohr v. Williams, 104 N.W. 12 (Minn. 1905) - A copy of Justice Brown's opinion in Mohr v. Williams, which was key in the development of the tort doctrine of informed consent.