Calling it a Career: Judge Fred Kawalski - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Calling it a Career: Judge Fred Kawalski

The only judge for Langlade County has made many decisions that impact the lives of others. Now he's made a decision for himself, to retire.    

Judge Fred Kawalski is hanging up his robe as he calls it a career.

It's a day of routine.

"Usually we have cases scheduled starting at 8:30," said Judge Fred Kawalski.

After a handful of cases, it's time for a coffee break.

From there to his office, where the judge reads up on his next cases.

Then it's back to the courtroom.

"They need to get a picture of you and also your fingerprints," said Kawalski.

Kawalski calls his courtroom his home away from home. He estimates he's heard about 4,000 cases throughout the years.
Born and raised in Chicago, Judge Kawalski moved to Antigo in 1986.
In 2005, voters elected him Langlade County's only circuit court judge, replacing longtime Judge James Jansen.

"I tried to continue his legacy because he was a wonderful judge," said Kawalski.

His co-workers say he carried Jansen's legacy while creating his own.

"It's going to be difficult losing someone who's not  just a judge but someone who you have a very strong relationship with," said Langlade County District Attorney, Ralph Uttke.

"He's a good judge and a good person," said Langlade County Clerk of Circuit Court, Marilyn Baraniak.

Judge Kawalski is known for his sense of humor around the office. And his effort to always be fair.

"I haven't always agreed with all of his decisions but they're always well thought out," said Uttke.

"It's an extremely important position because a judge makes decisions that have an incredible impact on people's lives," said Kawalski.

67-year-old Kawalski says many cases stand out, including some of the hardest.

"Custody decisions, and you're deciding what parent they are going to be living with," said Kawalski.

And the most satisfying?

"Adoptions, to see the joy in their faces as they are now part of a family," said Kawalski.

During his 9 years on the bench, Kawalski says the job never got any easier.

"If it gets too easy then I think there's a tendency to not be as careful and as deliberate as you might otherwise be, so I want it to be difficult," said Kawalski.

Kawalski says he's learned a lot, but it's time to call it quits. He says he has some minor health issues, and it's time to enjoy life.

The courtroom...

"I'm very nervous and I'm very sad," said Kawalski.

The bench ...

"It's an end of a chapter in my life," he said.

The gavel...

"I never used this thing," said the judge.

And of course the friends along the way.

"I will miss the people," he said.

This one-judge county is saying goodbye to one of its leaders.

After hearing 17 cases on his last day, his routine is over.

"The one thing you cannot say about this is that it gets boring, that does not happen," he said.

As Judge Fred Kawalski calls it a career.

The judge says his plans for retirement involve traveling with his wife, catching up on some reading and being more active in the community.

As for replacing him, two candidates have already taken out nomination papers to get on the April ballot. In the meantime, reserve judges will handle the case load for the county until a new judge is selected.    

If you or someone you know is looking to call it a career, let me know. Email me at

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