Friends and colleagues of retiring Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce E. Schroeder gave the longtime jurist a warm sendoff Friday, during a lunchtime celebration at the Courthouse.
Schroeder — whom one associate noted has served 40 years, six months and two days as a Circuit Court judge — is presently the state of Wisconsin’s longest-tenured judge. That streak will end when he takes his retirement effective Nov. 27.
Judge Jason Rossell, speaking during Friday’s informal program, noted that Schroeder once said his retirement party would be at St. Mary’s Church, “and he would be the one lying down in the box.”
“I’ve very happy that he’s here to hear my remarks, because I’m not sure they’d let me speak at St. Mary’s,” Rossell quipped.
Presenting Schroeder with a commendation from the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Rossell praised the judge for serving as a mentor to many over the years.
“Thank you for your friendship, for being a great colleague,” Rossell said. “What many of you don’t know is when you become a judge, a lot of times you have questions. I think almost every single one of us ran into Bruce’s office at least once or twice within the first three months of being a judge going, ‘Ah, what the heck do I do now?’”
In addition to the Supreme Court commendation, Wisconsin Court of Appeals judges Mark Gundrum, Maria Lazar and Lisa Neubauer were on hand to congratulate Schroeder, along with several other current and retired judges and many attorneys, clerks and other Courthouse staffers.
Schroeder described beginning his career at the Kenosha County Courthouse on Jan. 12, 1971, as an assistant district attorney fresh out of Marquette University Law School. The DA at the time, Burton Scott, took Schroeder on a tour of the building, where he met a deputy court clerk who was wearing a red pants suit — “which was very stylish at the time,” Schroeder noted.
That would be Donna, now Schroeder’s wife of 51 years, who joined him at Friday’s celebration with two of their three children, son Terry and daughter Katie. Donna, Schroeder said, is a saint — “not just for dealing with me, but in every respect.”
Over the years, Schroeder himself would serve as the elected district attorney and as a private-practice lawyer before Gov. Tony Earl appointed him to a vacant judgeship in 1983. The rest, as they say, is history.
“I’ve been blessed,” Schroeder said. “And one of my great blessings has been the people I’ve worked with.”
“On top of everything else,” the judge added, “I’ve had a really fun time working here. I would recommend it to anybody.”