Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder is known to be viewed as a tough jurist.
During today’s line of questioning, Schroeder stopped prosecutor Thomas Binger’s cross-examination of Kyle Rittenhouse to admonish the prosecution team’s line of questioning.
The two had a testy exchange after the judge asked the jury to leave the courtroom.
Schroeder also made headlines last month by reiterating his longstanding rule of not allowing prosecutors to refer to people as “victims” before juries in his courtroom.
At the same time, Schroeder said at a pretrial hearing that the men who were shot could be described as “looters” or “rioters” if the defense can show they engaged in such activity during protests after a police officer shot Jacob Blake in August 2020, leaving Blake paralyzed.
His decision immediately sparked debate and in some cases outrage in legal circles and Schroeder, the longest serving active judge in Wisconsin’s trial courts was, once again, thrust into the spotlight.
“His word is final and he’s not afraid to make tough decisions,” said Dan Adams, a Wisconsin criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor.
Schroeder, 75, has come under scrutiny many times during his nearly 40 years on the bench: From a 2018 sentence — thrown out on appeal — requiring a convicted shoplifter to tell store managers she was on supervision for retail theft, to ordering AIDS tests for sex workers in the late 1980s.
“He has a reputation for doing what he believes is the right thing and being an independent thinker,” said William Lynch, a retired attorney who served on the board of the ACLU of Wisconsin at the time of Schroeder ruling about the AIDS tests.
“And it’s his courtroom. He doesn’t like to be pushed around by either party. So he has a strong sense of his own his bearing in the courtroom,” Lynch said.
CNN has sought comment from Schroeder.
A seasoned southeast Wisconsin attorney who has appeared before Schroeder many times described the judge as “someone who has studied the Constitution and the enumerated rights for criminal defendants and… respects the right of the defense to put on a defense.”
“He’s a super old school guy,” said the attorney, who asked not to be named because he still appears before Schroeder.
“And that doesn’t mean that he’s old. I mean he’s 75 years old, which is older than most judges, but he’s just an old school guy. He still operates his courtroom like it’s 1980.”
Schroeder will be 80 when his current terms ends in 2026.
The Wisconsin defense attorney who asked not to be identified noted that Schroeder’s sharp tongue and sometimes combative manner have “mellowed” over the years.
“He barks some and, for younger lawyers, they are very sensitive to that sort of thing. ‘Oh, the judge yelled at me.'” the attorney said. “Like, toughen up, buttercup. This is felony court. Older lawyers are like, ‘Okay, he yelled at me. And then I saw him in the hallway and he asked me how my son’s basketball game was.’ That’s just his style.”
Rittenhouse defense makes a motion for mistrial