Judge Jim Bolgert is a longtime member of Sheboygan County’s informal “Orange Book” club, which meets monthly to review and discuss the advance sheets and cases on the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s docket.
The name comes from the orange soft-cover that adorns the new decisions. He says the gathering keeps him and the other attendees up-to-date in the law; it promotes collegiality between the bench and bar; and mostly it’s fun.
It’s part of his personal effort to ensure he’s never “just going through the motions” with the justice he dispenses.
Bolgert is a second-generation judge for the county. For about five years early in his career, he had to make certain clerks did not inadvertently assign his cases to his father, Judge John Bolgert.
He recalls walking to the courthouse as a child with his family to meet his dad for lunch, and occasionally catching a glimpse of him on the bench before or afterward. Obviously, it made an impact.
He left big shoes to fill when he died in 1993. His portrait hangs on the wall in Branch 3.
Unfortunately, he did not live long enough to see his son carry on the tradition just a year later, when the Legislature created a new judgeship and Bolgert was elected. “But my mom did give me his robe on the day that I was sworn in,” Bolgert says.
After 16 years of wearing it, he still finds the job challenging and fulfilling. “We do an important service. Mostly, I hope people walk away feeling like they’ve been heard and treated fairly,” he says. “Our support staff is wonderful, and we have a county that’s very supportive of the justice system.”
Sheboygan’s jurists are all generalists. Bolgert thrives on that variety; he became accustomed to it during his pre-bench years in private, general practice, the majority of that time as a solo practitioner. He recalls arguing cases before the Wisconsin Supreme Court on three occasions during those early years of his career — all before he turned 40.
He’s a happily married father of three, and has spent most of his free time for the past couple of decades coaching his children’s various sports and serving as a Boy Scout leader.