City Times Staff
Portage County Circuit Court Judge John V. Finn has announced that he will be retiring at the end of July this year.
Judge Finn has been on the bench for over 27 years. He was first appointed to the office by former Governor Tommy Thompson in April 1988 and was reelected unopposed for the next five consecutive elections.
Finn informed his staff and the other two Portage County Judges of his decision last week.
“It has indeed been an experience that I never anticipated. and for which I feel extremely fortunate to have had,” Finn said in a statement on Tuesday.
Finn said he never anticipated becoming a judge when he first graduated from law school in 1970. Finn got his first job as a prosecutor in the Bronx County District Attorneys Office in New York City.
“In those days, each of the prosecutors in the office tried on average two multiple day jury trials per month, so we learned how to try cases,” Finn said.
While in private practice in Stevens Point, Finn said he found his niche in litigation, and often said that jury trials were really one of the last dramas left. He applied for a judge vacancy at the behest of several local attorneys in 1988.
“It was a tough decision at that point because I really wanted to continue to have the opportunity to be an advocate in the courtroom,” Finn said. “But after much discussion with family and other attorneys I decided to seek the appointment.”
During his career Finn has served on multiple local, state and national committees to include the National Council Association of State Trial Judges of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Wisconsin Bench Bar Committee and the Portage County Space and Property Committee.
Working with the other Portage County Judges, he oversaw the creation of the Day Report Center which has helped reduce the number of pretrial inmates in the county jail. He also helped create pretrial and post-conviction supervision programs, which he said have helped reduce recidivism.
As county’s presiding judge, in 2011 he oversaw the implementation of CCAP, when Portage County jointed the state system for electronic record keeping and public access to court records.
Finn said figuring out the complexity of a law was one of the best parts of his job.
“Trying to solve a relatively complex legal issue that has been well presented by all sides…that is the essence of what it means to be a lawyer and a judge,” he said.
Finn will officially retire on July 31. Gov. Scott Walker could appoint an interim to fill the vacancy, which is expected to be filled in the spring election in 2016. Whoever wins the April election will be seated in August.