Judge Who Mocked Domestic Abuse Victim, Showed Handgun In Court Gets 1-Week Suspension

Winnebago Judge Scott Woldt Violated Judicial Conduct Codes 6 Times, Court Finds

A scale
Courtesy calinjurylawyer/Public Domain

A Winnebago County judge who mocked a domestic abuse victim from the bench and held up his own handgun during a sentencing hearing for a burglary will serve a one-week suspension for judicial misconduct.

The state Supreme Court handed down the suspension for Judge Scott Woldt in a decision released Tuesday. It followed a complaint by the Wisconsin Judicial Commission alleging six separate instances of misconduct between 2009 and 2016.

Woldt didn’t dispute the facts of the complaints against him, and the court found that they constituted judicial misconduct.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
  • In a 2014 case involving an 18-year-old who sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl, Woldt referred to the girl as the “so-called victim,” declaring that the 18-year-old was a “smart man” and “a low risk to reoffend” and saying the defendant had been “taken advantage of” in the case.
  • In a 2015 incident, Woldt held a handgun up in court during what the court called a “rather lengthy soliloquy” about home and courthouse safety, implying that Woldt would have shot the defendant in the event of a burglary like the case he was sentencing. The defendant in that case was cognitively impaired.
  • In 2016, he again showed his handgun, which he was carrying legally, this time to a group of high school students visiting his courtroom as part of a Government Day event.
  • In 2009, Woldt berated a victim of domestic violence in his court by saying he was “sick and tired” of abuse victims who recanted or disputed charges brought against abusers.

In other incidents described in the ruling, Woldt said of a defendant that he would “love that he get found guilty, and I’d love to give him a year in jail for wasting my time today,” and used crude language to berate an attorney in his courtroom.

The court found Woldt’s misconduct to be “serious and to have a significant detrimental impact on the public’s view of the judiciary,” and found he used “undignified, discourteous and disrespectful language unbecoming a judge.” It found he “essentially threatened” the burglary convict by holding up the handgun during that defendant’s sentencing. It acknowledged that Woldt’s “extended period of service” as a circuit court judge was a mitigating factor in his favor.

Woldt will serve his suspension in August. He was appointed to the bench in 2004, and has won elections three times, most recently in 2017. His six-year term will expire in 2023.

Justices Annette Ziegler and Brian Hagedorn didn’t participate in the decision. Justices Rebecca Bradely and Patience Roggensack joined much of the decision, including its conclusion that a weeklong suspension was an appropriate punishment, but dissented from the court’s characterization that the handgun display by Woldt was offensive.