By Lisa Pett
Judge John Finn left the Portage County Courthouse for the last time Friday, wrapping up a 27-year career on the bench.
“This is the time. I just turned 70,” said Judge Finn, when asked why he was stepping down two years into his six-year term. “I always asked people why they retire. They say you’ll know when it’s time. It’s time.”
Raised in New York City, he attended Marquette University in Milwaukee where he met his wife, Carol, a Stevens Point native. After returning to New York to attend law school at St. John’s University, he sat for the bar exam in 1970 and served as an Assistant District Attorney in the Bronx from 1970-74.
He and his wife returned to Stevens Point in the 70’s, with Finn practicing law until he was appointed to the bench in 1988 by then-Governor Tommy Thompson.
Of his years on the bench, he said he is most proud of the respect that he and his fellow judges have earned in the community for the judicial system.
“All three of us have felt this,” he said. “You have to give respect to earn it.”
The respect he received from the community was demonstrated in running unopposed in five judicial elections.
Filling the bench vacancy may take time. Until then, the District Court Administrator will work with visiting judges to take care of cases in Judge Finn’s former courtroom.
The position may be filled prior to next Spring’s election by appointment. Governor Scott Walker requested applications for the position and a committee is reviewing applicants.
Any appointee, however, will have to run for the non-partisan office in April of 2016.
“I have tried over the years to education the public,” said Finn. “It’s been a life-long thing for me. I speak to the public every chance I get to try to explain how we come to our decisions.”
It’s tough, he said, but he and his judicial colleagues work very hard to always apply the law.
“You have to be impartial,” he said. “Apply the law to the facts and make sure you’re fair.”