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Botsford anything but a rolling stone

Jim Botsford

Jim Botsford

Beyond being a dedicated advocate of civil legal services for the poor, attorney Jim Botsford is a devout Bob Dylan fan.

But he has been anything but a rolling stone during his legal career.

Botsford has exclusively practiced Indian law for 27 years and, since 1991, has been the director of the Indian Law Office of Wisconsin Judicare, Inc., a provider of civil legal services in  Wausau.

Botsford leads the Indian Law Office’s outreach efforts with all 11 federally recognized tribes in Wisconsin.

He focuses on Indian rights issues such as the protection of Indian children and religious freedom as well as tribal court development and assistance to Indian elderly.

For the past 15 years, he has served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and recently published a book of true stories, some of them recounting Indian rights cases he has worked on throughout his career.

Botsford showcases his affection for Dylan and his job in this week’s Asked & Answered.

Wisconsin Law Journal: If you could develop one CLE course for credit, what would it be about?

James Botsford: The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which the United States recently became a party to.

WLJ: What was your least favorite course in law school and why?

Botsford: Trusts and Estates. I just couldn’t get interested. But I was much younger then, and I’m interested now.

WLJ: What is your favorite website and why?

Botsford: because it’s an easy way to keep track of what Bob Dylan is up to and related artistic issues. Also is quite helpful for keeping up with current issues, especially law related issues, in Indian Country.

WLJ: What is the one luxury item you cannot live without?

Botsford: I almost said trailer hitch, but I think that’s a necessity. So I’ll say a passport. Travel experiences have really enriched my life.

WLJ: What is one thing attorneys should know that they won’t learn in law school?

Botsford: Love is often more powerful than law, and wisdom more valuable than knowledge.

WLJ: What is the first concert you went to?

Botsford: Bob Dylan in Winnipeg, Manitoba in the ‘60s.

WLJ: If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would it be and why?

Botsford: Han Shan, a reclusive Taoist from the misty mountains of China in the 15th Century, because of the deep simplicity I imagine he enjoyed. And he was a great poet.

WLJ: What is your motto?

Botsford: Dance till you’re done.

WLJ: What is your favorite movie about lawyers or the law and why?
Botsford: Inherit the Wind. Not only because it’s based on a true story, but because Spencer Tracy’s courtroom speech is unfortunately still relevant today.

WLJ: If you hadn’t become a lawyer, what career would you have chosen?

Botsford: I would’ve enjoyed being a much published author doing sustainable farming.

Jack Zemlicka can be reached at [email protected].


  1. Thanks for this Jack. I have known Mr. Botsford for years. He is true blue and well deserving of this acknowledgment. He and I have been able to share parenting lessons through the years and I would say if you missed anything here is is that James is a great father. He is one of the important people in my life who helped me learn the delicacy in the practice of the Buddhist tenant that children are our real spiritual teachers, and that all else is substitute.

    Thank you James.

  2. I was lucky enough to hang out at the Botsford residence a great deal while growing up and I can’t begin to list all of the fine qualities that Mr. and Mrs. Botsford have worked to instill in me. Even after knowing James for years, it never ceases to amaze me how much generosity, humor, straight-forwardness, and pure spirit can be packed into one man. James has been, and continues to be, a measuring stick for me in terms of becoming a good lawyer and a decent human being. He does, however, need to work a bit on his chili recipe. Keep up the good fight, Mr. B!

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