ABOUT 35 YEARS AGO, I met and interviewed the honorable Robert Gollmar, who was a lawyer for more than 50 years and a judge for more than 24 years. He was a circuit judge in central Wisconsin and was most remembered because of his participation in the infamous Edward Gein murder trial.

At the time, Judge Gollmar had just written a book titled “Edward Gein: America’s Most Bizarre Murderer.” A previous book was titled “Tales of a Country Judge.” He wrote about his most dramatic cases and unforgettable experiences. Following are a few of his amusing anecdotes and observations.

One day in Montello, a beautiful young woman came in for a divorce. She was a school teacher and obviously intelligent. Gollmar said he looked at the husband, a gawky type who, to use a country expression, was “behind the door when the brains were passed out.”

He took the stand and in a bewildered manner explained what happened. He had worked at a filling station and this woman would come in and buy gas. She would invite him to her home. Options are limited in rural areas.

He told us “I never did understand. I would go down there and when I got there, she would be all dressed for bed, so I couldn’t see why she wanted company.”

Apparently, she finally got the message across to him and they married. She arranged for the marriage night to be spent in a Portage motel. Since he ran a farm which his mother owned, the chores had to be done and it was further agreed that he would do the chores and meet his new bride afterward.

The chores took a little longer than he anticipated and “It was getting dark already, so I just thought I’d stay home with Ma and pick her (his new wife) up in the morning.”

End of marriage.



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GOLLMAR SAID he believed in the jury system wholeheartedly. He said this despite the fact that he had seen juries goof up cases. But so do judges, he added.

“There may well be needed changes in the jury system. For one suggestion, I think a jury of six could, in most cases, serve as well as the more expensive, traditional 12.”



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GOLLMAR SAID he approved of the Huber Law, but realized it cannot serve every case.

“Prison can easily become a way of life. Psychiatrists tell us that some people commit crimes in hope that they will be punished. I have seen men, far more than society realizes, who deliberately violate the law because they want to return to prison.

“To most of us, prison is highly undesirable. To the longtime loser, prison is security, it is home. Life is regulated, but it is dependable,” explained the judge.



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THE JUDGE had this to say about some murderers.

One defense psychiatrist said in trial testimony of a case where there was a mass killing “He had to kill them. He saw no other way to solve his problems.”

The judge has pondered the Biblical phrase “A time to kill and a time to heal . . .” Ecclesiastes 3:3. In a crazy, mixed-up situation, a person may become emotionally induced and come to the conclusion “It’s time to kill.”



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THERE WAS a time my fellow circuit judges did not appreciate my statement that it is easier to be a circuit judge than a county judge. I was constantly called upon to play God. I never felt that I was all that good.

Gollmar explained “At the conclusion of a hard-fought and, I hope, fairly-tried negligence case, I do not carry to my pillow the fact that some insurance company has to pay $50,000.”

When, as a county judge, I had to send a juvenile to prison or determine the custody of small children, I often felt a sense of my own inadequacy and a fear of error that, as a circuit judge, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin has never instilled in me.



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GOLLMAR OBSERVED “While some people may have a flair to sport a bow tie, most should leave them in the closet, alongside their leisure suits.

“The average person who wears a bow tie is distrusted by almost everyone. Attorneys should avoid putting a bow-tie wearer on a jury because bow-tie wearers, they believe, are not likely to be moved by sound argument.”

So, what is the best tie for success? The most useful tie by far is the diagonally-striped tie.

Success magazine offered “If you must wear a bow tie, buy the proper accessories for it: a red nose and a beanie cap with a propeller.”



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IN ANOTHER case, a psychiatrist told the court about a murderer. “This man has incurable homicidal tendencies. We can do nothing for him and we, therefore, are returning him to society.”

Lord Chancellor Lyndhurst defined a good judge as “First, she must be honest. Second, she must possess a reasonable amount of industry. Third, she must have courage. Fourth, she must be a gentlewoman. And then, if she has some knowledge of law, it will help.”