John Roemer, retired judge killed in attack, remembered for his dedication
The retired Juneau County judge who was killed friday in what authorities said was an attack linked to the justice system “cared deeply” about doing its job well, was fair to all and treated everyone in its courtroom with respect, community members said .
John Roemer, 68, was a “brilliant jurist who spent an incredible amount of time doing the right thing,” said Scott Southworth, who served as the Juneau County prosecutor from 2005 to 2013.
“I learned a lot from him,” he said.
A 56-year-old man allegedly shot him at his home ‘based on some kind of court case or court cases,’ Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul told a news conference on Friday. . The “targeted act” included other intended victims, Kaul said, although the attorney general did not identify them.
Law enforcement officers found Roemer dead when they entered his New Lisbon home, then found the shooter in the basement with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He is believed to be in critical condition, Kaul said Friday.
Judge John Roemer presided over high-profile cases in Juneau County
Roemer was first elected to the Juneau County Circuit Court in 2004. Circuit Court judges serve six-year terms, and Roemer was re-elected in 2010 and 2016. In both elections, he won is presented without opposition. Roemer resigned in August 2017, citing his wife’s declining health. she died the next year.
“I wish to graciously thank the citizens of the State of Wisconsin and Juneau County for giving me this valuable opportunity to serve as their circuit court judge,” Roemer said in a letter to Governor Scott Walker announcing his retirement. “It’s a responsibility that, sometimes, I can hardly imagine.”
In a statement on Saturday, Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Annette Kingsland Ziegler said Roemer “was known to colleagues for his keen legal mind and willingness to share his time and knowledge with others. Her work has made a huge difference in the lives of many people in Juneau County and across the state.”
During his tenure as a judge, Roemer presided over several of the region’s most high-profile cases, including one in which a religious cult leader was convicted of ordering a follower to hide the corpse of a 90-year-old woman a toilet home for two months while he collected Social Security payments from the deceased woman.
Before becoming a judge, Roemer served as an assistant district attorney for Juneau County for 12 years. He also spent five years as an assistant state public defender in Baraboo, according to The third brancha publication of the Wisconsin court system.
In 2002, he retired from the US Army Reserves as a Lieutenant Colonel.
Roemer graduated from Hamline University Law School in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1980. He married his wife, Vivian, the same year. They had three sons: Nathaniel, Jordan and Mark.
Roemer was heavily involved with his church, St. Paul’s Evangelical in Mauston
Roemer, who also went by the name “Jack,” was a longtime member of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mauston, where he served as chairman of the church board for the past year and a half, the report said. Pastor Jasper Sellnow at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He was already on the church board when he became president.
“More than someone who has a good business sense or a leadership spirit, we want someone who has a spiritual mind and a heart that…reflects the love of God,” Sellnow said. “It’s Jack.”
Roemer oversaw the church’s search for a third pastor and helped encourage members who had been disconnected from the church during the COVID-19 pandemic to return, Sellnow said. Roemer also served as chairman of the church’s evangelism committee and was active in community outreach.
Sellnow remembered Roemer as someone who served with joy and was often in church. He said one of Roemer’s sons has an intellectual disability and he supports other worshipers with special needs and their families. He said the whole community was in mourning but they would do well to remember what Roemer stood for.
“He just wanted others to know that there is hope in a dark world when you have God,” the pastor said.
Roemer remembers his dedication to his job as a judge
Southworth said that when he was a district attorney, he worked with Roemer on a daily basis.
“He was kind. He was passionate. He was empathetic,” said Southworth, who now works as a criminal defense attorney and adoption attorney in the Mauston and Wisconsin Dells area. needed on the bench.”
Roemer also figured prominently in the lives of the people he met. Eva Woywod worked for 13 years as a reporter and editor for The Messenger of Juneau County, covering the Roemer courtroom. His sense of humor didn’t go away when he chaired the bench, Woywod, 54, said. In a rural court, she said, the circumstances sometimes bordered on the ridiculous and lasted for hours. Her son, Kyle Roberts, would join her in court out of boredom. The two sometimes made faces at each other according to Roemer.
“You sit in court and you go through all these hearings, it would be hard to keep a straight face after a while,” she said. “Sometimes he would look up and wink at me.”
Roemer touched his life not just as a professional for another, but as a judge for a victim. In 2007, Roemer sent her ex-husband to prison for domestic violence and sexual assault. Roemer always asked how his sons were doing.
“Jack was instrumental in certain chapters of my life,” she said. “He always went out of his way to send kind words to my sons. If my sons were with me when I was in court, he always spent time with them and showed them his office in the back where he had all his music.”
Roberts, 24 and a rock musician, loved the classics – Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin – as did Roemer.
“I used to get picked on for liking that kind of music. A lot of my friends listened to Christian music and thought what I was listening to was from the devil,” Roberts said. was really cool to have this judge listening to the same things I was listening to.”
Roberts said Roemer was one of the people who encouraged him to pursue his passion for music. “He was telling me to go out there and do what I wanted to do,” he said.
Roemer was part of a team in 2009 that traveled to Buffalo, New York, to observe a veterans court, which later led to the establishment of Wisconsin’s first veterans court, according to The Third Branch.
Southworth said he was “shocked and sickened” when he received a phone call on Friday informing him of the situation.
“It is imperative that officials in our justice system can do their jobs without fear of harm or threat,” he said.
Southworth found comfort in the fact that Roemer was “a man of great faith” who was also passionately devoted to his role as a judge.
“We actually talked once about the stress of being a judge,” he said. “I just expressed my concern for him personally because he was so dedicated and dedicated, and spent so many hours working for the people.”
Chief Justice Ziegler said, “The state’s judicial family is shocked and saddened by this tragedy. … Our deepest sympathy goes out to Judge Roemer’s family at this time.”
Angela Kujak, the Juneau County Family Court Commissioner, called Roemer’s death disturbing, shocking and sad. She called him a “very great man” who was a mentor to all lawyers, treated everyone fairly and had a great sense of humor.
Kujak said she had no particular reason to think anyone would target Roemer, but said she could “unfortunately” understand why anyone would target a judge in general.
“Judges have a very tough job and you have to make tough decisions and often people are not happy with those decisions,” she said. “It is worrying. It’s frightening. I appreciate that the courthouses in which I work have excellent judicial security and this has been a priority in many counties. But of course it happened at home.
Southworth also found it remarkable that Roemer had experience as a defense attorney, prosecutor, and judge.
“He was able to do what very few lawyers do: perform three different critical roles in the criminal justice system,” he said.
He said he enjoyed the time he was able to spend with Roemer, especially when Southworth became a district attorney in Juneau County at a relatively young age.
“He would take the time to help me figure out how to be a better prosecutor, how to be a better lawyer,” he said. “I will never forget him.”
Juneau County’s legal community is tight-knit and, despite the loss, Southworth expects everyone to come together and “show how much we value respect for others and the simple celebration of life of public service.” (from Roemer)”.
Journalists Elliot Hughes of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Alan Hovorka of the USA TODAY Network-Wisconsin contributed to this report.
Contact Kelli Arseneau at (920) 213-3721 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @ArseneauKelli. Contact Chris Mueller at 920-996-7267 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @AtChrisMueller.