Judge Joseph Wieners retires from the Dodge County bench on August 12. He will continue working part time, however, until his replacement Olmsted County Judge Jodi Williamson is ready to step in full-time.
Photo by Tara Lindquist
More time on the ice...
There's still two years left in Judge Wieners term as Dodge County District Court Judge, but he has decided that is time to hang up his robe and begin doing more of the things that he enjoys.
Judge Wieners officially retired on Monday, August 12, but will still be doing retired judge work in Dodge County until Judge Jodi Williams takes over as Dodge County's full-time judge.
Judge Wieners said he's at an age where he's still in good health and wants to spend more time biking, fishing and traveling. "I've been working in some form or another for 55 years," he said. "I'm in good health and so is my wife but I'm at an age where I want to enjoy my life." He explained he is no longer willing to take the risk of something happening and him not being able to fully enjoy retirement. "It's just a risk I'm not willing to take any more," he said.
Even though he's stepping off the bench, there is one passion he will not be walking away and that's his hockey team. "I'll have more time to dedicate to the hockey program now," he explained. He will also continuing to play hockey once a week with his novice league team in Rochester. "I've always followed hockey but at my high school didn't have a team when I was school so I didn't play," he explained. "But it was something I always followed." He didn't actually begin playing the sport until he was 49 when he heard about the novice league. "It's something I really enjoy," he said.
Wieners began coaching the Dodge County Wildcat's when his daughter was in high school and playing. He also helped write the "Mighty Ducks" grant that brought the hockey arena to Dodge County.
He admits he will miss the good people that he's had the opportunity to work with these past few years and will miss working with the people that came before him in court. "Being in a small county and being a judge here meant I saw a lot of my neighbors and people that I knew outside of the court room," he explained. "I always enjoyed working with the people - it's what I'll miss the most" He also added that although he's retiring he'll still be around, for a while as a retired judge and once the new judge settles in you'll probably see him more on the bike paths and at the rink.
By Tara Lindquist
On Monday, August 12, the Honorable Judge Joseph Wieners, closed his court file and stepped off the bench for the last time as a full-time judge.
He is officially retired. However, he will still be doing retired judge work until his replacement, Judge Jodi Williamson, is able to move into Dodge County full-time.
Judge Wieners has been presiding over Dodge County Court since the summer of 2010, when he took over the bench from long-time Dodge County Judge Lawrence Agerter. "When Judge Agerter retired, I wanted to come to Dodge County," Judge Wieners explained. "It brought my career full circle."
After graduating from University of Minnesota Law School in 1973, he became a Law Clerk for the, Wisconsin Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals judge, Honorable John Bartholomew. After a year he left his job as law clerk and began a private practice in Wisconsin and also was an instructor at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, teaching Labor Law and Hotel-Restaurant Law. "My wife was employed at the college at the time, but we knew that we wanted to get back to Minnesota." When he heard of an opening at a law firm in Rochester he quickly took it.
"It wasn't long until I started practicing on my own in Kasson and helping at the firm in Rochester when the Dodge County Attorney had been appointed to the bench in Dodge County." The man was Lawrence Agerter. "So I applied and got the job." He remained working in both private practice and as the county attorney until Governor Rudy Perpich appointed him to Judgeship in 1989. "I was encouraged to apply for the appointment," he commented.
He remained as a judge in Olmsted County until coming to Dodge County in 2010, where he took over the position held by Lawrence Agerter once again. He has spent 21 years as a judge.
He is happy to be ending his career in Dodge County and has never regretted coming back. "I am glad I came back," he explained. "It gave me a chance to work with great people and I had the opportunity to reestablish relationships."
He admits being a judge in Dodge County is very different from Olmsted County. Aside from just the size difference, he believes Dodge County Prosecuting Attorney, Gary Remine and Public Defender Rachael Drenckpohl do a great job at looking at the person and not just the crime they have committed. "In Dodge County there seems to be a more progressive way of justice," he said. "There's just not that hard-line stance that you see in other counties, there's a belief that these are good people, and they are, so we don't always have to throw the hammer down to address the issues to get a good outcome."
Throughout his career he's presided over thousands of cases and several of them have stuck with him throughout the years. "Family law and custody cases are always the hardest," he admits. "When you're dealing with people's passions and desires it's always difficult to gauge what the right decision is." His advice to anyone going through a divorce or a custody dispute is to please, try to come to an amicable agreement on your own instead of letting the courts decide.
"It's a lot easier for someone to accept an agreement, iagreement, if it's made on their own than it is to accept one that a judge has made," he said. Wieners also pointed out, it's better to work out an agreement on your own because a judge doesn't necessarily know all your circumstances, they only know what they see in court. "You'll just be better off in the long run working with an agreement you made, rather than one a judge imposed on you."
Although he's seen his fair share of gruesome cases, there are also those that still get a chuckle out of Judge Wieners when he talks about them. "The case of the purple tights bandit is still one that I will never forget," he said. "The whole case was bazaar from start to finish." As Wieners explained the case, he admits he's never been very good at keeping a straight face in the courtroom because a lot of time the time, the cases are funny. According to Wieners, the purple tight bandit case began when a man met a woman at a gas station in Rochester and convinced her to go for a ride with him to get to know each other better. "They drove out in the country and he began acting strange," he explained. "He started doing a weird dance in the front of the headlights of his car to get her attention, she asked to be brought back to town and dropped off at her home." The man brought her back to town and she asked to be dropped off a few blocks from her home so the man did not know exactly where she lived. "A few nights later, the woman awoke to this guy standing naked in her bedroom, which was on the second floor, she had the natural reaction to scream," he said. "So the man, jumped out of her second story window, with no clothes on and begins to run through the neighborhood thinking to himself he should probably find some clothes. Which he eventually did, off of some person's clothes line, a pair of purple tights and a towel with a duck on it." The man proceeded to run through the neighborhood in his new duds before arriving at a friend's home. "When his friend answered the door, the man just told his friend 'don't even ask'."
That case will always be one of the most memorable to Wieners, he hopes he will be remembered as treating people fairly. "I hope people thought I gave them a chance, was patient, and let people have their say," he said. "I hope no one felt like the deck stacked against them before they even stepped into the courtroom." He also hopes he's remembered for working hard.