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Judge Race talks about leaving the bench



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November 12, 2013 | 01:29 PM
ELKHORN — After serving for nearly three decades on the bench, Judge John Race is set to retire on Dec. 30.

Race said his judicial term ends in 2015, and he had already decided not to seek re-election.

“I choose not to run again. Judicial elections are so expensive,” Race said.

He recently moved to the family court, which helped make his decision to leave easier. The four Walworth County judges spend two years each on the four different courts — criminal felony, criminal misdemeanor, family and civil.

Other judges have cited family court has one of the hardest and least pleasant branches to serve.

The family court often deals with divorce and child placement issues.

Race is no different and said he gets tired of the “bickering.”

When Judge Robert Kennedy left the bench in 2012, he also said overseeing family proceedings is taxing.

“It hurts me so much to see people who loved each other break apart and fight so much,” Kennedy said at his retirement. “It’s not only people who love each other, but their children who love both of them. When this happens, it is so painful to see it.”

In retirement, Race said he doesn’t plan on returning to private practice. However, he may accept reserve judge roles if they become available.

According to the State of Wisconsin Bar web site, Race graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1960, which is the same year he joined the Wisconsin Bar.

Prior to becoming a judge, Race was a private attorney who handled everything from auto accidents to real estate and divorces, he said.

He said his first election for judge, 29 years ago, was highly-competitive and he faced a challenging primary and general election.

However, he hasn’t faced a challenger in any of his re-election campaigns.

Before serving on the family court in August, Race’s last assignment was the criminal felony branch.

In that role, Race was responsible for making sentencing decisions on serious criminal acts. He said deciding whether someone goes to prison is “self-evident.”

“If the defendant has a substantial criminal record and committed dangerous acts they are sentenced on what the facts support,” he said.

He said the facts, not the judges, should dictate the sentence.

“That’s our job, to make a decision,” he said. “To read the files, read the reports, read the law and make a decision. The sentence is inevitable.”

As he prepares to leave the bench, Race said he is thankful to the people he worked with and the constituents who placed their trust in him.

“I’m thankful to the people of Walworth County for returning me to office and for their confidence in me,” Race said.

“I also thank the bar for its cooperation with me and the police and deputies who have always been very cooperative and helpful.”

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