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Who is Bruce Schroeder? Kyle Rittenhouse trial is overseen by a 'no nonsense' judge

Known for his tough sentences, Schroeder has been dubbed 'the worst', as many worry he is an ally to the defense for his questionable decisions
UPDATED NOV 11, 2021
Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder. (Twitter)
Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder. (Twitter)

All eyes are now on Kenosha, where 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse is on trial for shooting three men during the 2020 protests in the city. Apart from the defendant himself, another person to make headlines for his role in the trial is Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder. Even before the trial began, the 75-year-old judge was making headlines, but now that it's actually underway, he's become a frequent part of the story. 

In many ways, it's not just Rittenhouse who is on trial, but the soul of America. Following his shooting "in self-defense", Rittenhouse became a poster boy for the far right. Not only did the internet back him in the days and months since the shooting, but his supporters also sold 'Free Kyle' merchandise to raise funds for his defense. In fact, one Christian fundraising site managed to raise over $500k for Rittenhouse in just weeks. 


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With that kind of support, many expect Rittenhouse to walk away innocent, a situation that is becoming more and more real every day. Not only is the teenager being helped by the prosecution themselves, but in many ways, it seems he also has an ally in Judge Schroeder. Here's everything we know about him, and how he's handled the case so far.

Kyle Rittenhouse waits for his legal team before the trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse on November 4, 2021, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. (Sean Krajacic-Pool/Getty Images)

Who is Jude Burce Schroeder?

The 75-year-old has been on the bench since 1983 and is currently the longest-serving judge in Wisconsin. After graduating from the Marquette Law School in 1970, Schroeder initially worked in the Kenosha County District Attorney's Office. He then spent a few years in private practice, before returning to public service as a judge. In the many decades since, Schroeder has earned the reputation of a strict, no-nonsense judge with a history of handing out tough sentences.

But, he's also known for a few moments of levity. Reportedly, the judge likes to quote the Bible, Shakespeare, and medieval judicial philosophy during court proceedings and is even known to host Jeopardy-style trivia games during downtimes in court. That led one lawyer to describe him as "strange" and "flamboyant". 

A testament to his businesslike fashion is the Rittenhouse case. It took him just one day to impanel a jury for the trial, something that can often take weeks, especially in a high-profile case like this. "His word is final and he’s not afraid to make tough decisions," former prosecutor Dan Williams told CNN about the judge.  Another individual added, "it's his courtroom. He doesn't like to be pushed around by either party. So he has a strong sense of his own bearing in the courtroom."

Judge Bruce Schroeder speaks to the prosecution during the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. (Twitter)

That toughness has also led to several controversial decisions in his 40-year service. In the late 1980s, Schroeder drew widespread attention for requiring a convicted child molester who also engaged in prostitution to get an AIDS test. That also led him to order all convicted sex workers to submit to an AIDS test. Then, in 2008, he sentenced Mark Jensen to life without parole for poisoning his wife with antifreeze. The sentence came after he allowed into evidence a letter from the wife, which helped nail the conviction. But, Wisconsin's Supreme Court ordered a new trial in the case in February 2020, ruling the letter should not have been admitted. 

Is Schroeder an ally to Rittenhouse?

Since the beginning of court proceedings, Schroeder has made numerous decisions that many online have interpreted as support for Rittenhouse. Before the trial began, he ruled that the people Rittenhouse killed could not be called "victims", claiming it was "too loaded" a term. But, he did allow them to be called "looters" and "rioters". In February, he refused to issue a new arrest warrant after prosecutors argued Rittenhouse violated the terms of his bond, by not informing the court about a change in address.

Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder at the start of the afternoon session in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse on November 5, 2021, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. ( Mark Hertzberg-Pool/Getty Images)

Schroeder also refused to allow into evidence a video where Rittenhouse says he wishes he had a gun to shoot the looters in August 2020, two weeks before he ended up shooting three men. But, he did allow the defense to introduce a video of police officers saying "we appreciate you" to Rittenhouse. All that was even before the trial got underway. Over the past few days, he's made some even more baffling decisions, such as snapping at the prosecution for asking about Rittenhouse's AR-15. 

Even though he's known to be tough, but fair, many people seem to get the feeling Schroeder is an ally to Rittenhouse. That's why one Kenosha resident told The Washington Post, "I think Kyle Rittenhouse is going to get off. They gave the case to the worst judge in town."