After more than 28 years on the bench, Waupaca County Circuit Court Judge John Hoffmann has retired.
Originally from Manawa, Hoffmann graduated from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., in 1967.
In the fall of 1967, he became a student at the University of Wisconsin Law School in Madison.
“I was drafted in the fall of 1968,” Hoffmann said. “They allowed me to complete that semester, then I reported to Milwaukee.”
Hoffmann subsequently went into the Marine Corps, and after basic training in San Diego and infantry training at Camp Pendleton, he was stationed at the Marine Corps Finance Center in Kansas City, Mo.
“In an office of 19, 11 of us were college grads and draftees,” Hoffmann said.
“While I was at Kansas City, I went to law school at night and picked up 21 credits,” he said.
Hoffmann also met his wife, Deborah, while in Kansas City.
He finished his education in 1972 at UW Law School after his discharge from the Marines in 1971.
Hoffmann worked with a law firm in Madison for five years, then returned in 1977 to his home town of Manawa, where he worked in general practice law.
On Feb. 14, 1985, Gov. Tony Earl appointed Hoffmann as the Waupaca County Circuit Court Branch 2 judge to replace the retiring Judge Nathan Weise.
“There were five applicants. Tom Maroney and I survived the initial process, then I was appointed,” Hoffmann said.
Fourteen months after his apointment, Hoffmann ran unopposed for the office. He was elected to his first term in April 1986.
“I’ve never had any opposition,” Hoffmann said, regarding his election to the bench.
In addition to his responsibilities in Waupaca County, Hoffmann was also a member of the Juvenile Benchbook Committee for about 20 years.
Comprised of four circuit court judges, benchbook committees update the procedural reference manuals used by trial judges throughout the state. Committee members meet several times a year to revise the manuals.
Hoffmann was also a member of the state’s Commission on Children, Families and the Courts. Chaired by the chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the commission addresses child welfare issues and focuses on how the courts can improve the legal process of responding to child abuse and neglect.
Members of the commission include professionals in adoption professionals, child protective services, social services and education.
“The most satisfying cases are adoptions because everybody who comes into the court is happy,” Hoffmann said.
He said criminal cases are usually the most challenging because very few leave the courtroom satisfied with the outcome. Victims and their families expect longer sentences, while defendants and their families seek shorter sentences.
“I hope I’ve made a difference and treated all people fairly,” Hoffmann said. “Hopefully, they all felt they had an opportunity to be heard even if they didn’t agree with the decision I made.”
Although his current term as judge was not set to expire until the spring of 2016, Hoffmann said he decided it was time for him to retire.
“My wife retired three years ago when my first grandchild was born,” Hoffmann said. “Both of my children are in South Bend, and she spends a lot of time there.”
Hoffmann’s last day as judge is Nov. 29. However, his last day on the bench was Thursday, Nov. 21.
Gov. Scott Walker will appoint a judge until after the April 1, 2014 spring election. If more than two people announce their candidacy for the seat, then a primary would be held on Feb. 18, 2014.