Headlines continue about Kenosha County, WI Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder, the experienced jurist who is presiding over the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager charged with killing two and wounding another with an AR-15-style rifle during protests last summer following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha.
Judge Schroeder first received flack for barring the use of the word “victim” in his courtroom. He’s been accused of showing bias toward the defense. An example was an attempt to honor veterans, which resulted in gallery applause for a veteran who was testifying for the defense. He also made an off-color comment about Asian food and the supply chain delays, which pundits interpreted as anti-Asian, blaming Asians for causing our current supply chain issues.
Here’s my take on the various issues:
1. He seems to be enjoying the limelight and making the trial about him rather than about “justice.” I’d prefer he make simple rulings on the issues and stop “performing” for the cameras.
2. On the issue of use of the word “victims” to describe people shot that evening, I tend to agree with the judge. If we are truly ‘innocent until proven guilty’ in this country, something the press and the public often forget, Rittenhouse’s actions that night have not yet created “victims.” That designation is for the jury to decide. However, Judge Schroeder denigrates the gesture by permitting the use of descriptive words like rioters, arsonists, and looters, which, for many, creates the appearance of bias toward the defense.
3. His Asian food comment is just plain stupid. STFU and be a judge; do not attempt to be a comedian. You are not funny!
4. He challenged a prosecutor for defying him, but gave the defense a pass when it behaved in a similar manner.
Here’s the straight scoop:
Prosecutors have the same rights of appeal as the defense, but no one’s freedom is at stake when the prosecution loses. One could argue that the public danger is a serious consequence of a prosecutor’s failure, a prosecutor does not go to prison for life when he loses a case. When the defense loses, there are usually some serious consequences to the defendant. Thus, judges tend to rule in ways that would prevent a successful appeal by the defense. Sometimes that appears as ‘bias.’ What may appear as bias to some, could be the judge’s desire for a clean, unappealable record.
Schroeder has the reputation of being a no-nonsense judge. That’s fine. Nonsense doesn’t belong in a courtroom and that applies not only to the litigants, but to the judge, as well.
Judge Schroeder: Cut the nonsense.
Mark M. Bello, a trial lawyer, is the author of “Betrayal at the Border" and other ‘ripped from the headlines’ Zachary Blake Social Justice Legal Thrillers available on Amazon.com and other online booksellers. For more information, please visit www.markmbello.com. Mark also is co-host of the new podcast, Justice Counts, now streaming.