Obituary: Slain retired Wisconsin judge attended law school in St. Paul

A slain retired Wisconsin judge, fatally shot in his home last week in an apparently targeted attack by an aggrieved former defendant, attended law school in St. Paul.

John Roemer was a 1983 graduate of Hamline University School of Law, which merged with William Mitchell College of Law in 2015 to create Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

On Monday, Mitchell Hamline President and Dean Anthony Niedwiecki said in a statement:

“We grieve Judge Roemer’s death and offer our most heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. We work tirelessly at Mitchell Hamline to encourage our students to use their law degrees to serve the public. Judge Roemer was setting such an example for our students and alums. In addition to a long career on the bench, he also served in the military.

“The work to continuously make our justice system fairer and more equitable is built upon a bedrock that the public servants in those roles must feel safe to do their jobs. Judge Roemer’s murder is a tragic reminder that the work towards a safer environment also remains. But as a law school, we remain steadfast in our focus and drive to graduate law students who will do that work for the greater good.”

The gunman suspected of killing Roemer had a list that included Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, Whitmer’s office and a law enforcement source said Saturday.

Douglas K. Uhde, 56, who has not been charged, is suspected of killing Roemer, a retired Juneau County judge, at Roemer’s house in the central Wisconsin community of New Lisbon on Friday, the state Department of Justice said.

Uhde was found in the basement of the home with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, following attempts by police to negotiate with him. He was hospitalized in critical condition, DOJ officials said.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul on Friday said the shooting appeared to be a “targeted act” and that the gunman had selected people who were “part of the judicial system.”

But investigators believe the gunman also may have planned to target other government officials and found a list in his vehicle that contained the names of several other prominent elected leaders, a law enforcement official said. The other targets on the list, which mentioned Roemer, included Evers, McConnell and Whitmer, the official said.

Roemer was found zip-tied to a chair in his home and had been fatally shot, the official said. The official could not discuss details of the investigation publicly and spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Uhde has an extensive criminal and prison record dating back at least two decades, including a case when he was sentenced by Roemer to six years in prison on weapons charges. He was released from his last prison stint in April 2020.

Roemer, 68, was a “very loving, very encouraging man with a wonderful sense of humor who will be dearly missed” by the community, said Chip Wilke, pastor at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mauston, where Roemer was president of the congregation and evangelism chairman. “He was in my office several mornings a week.”

Roemer retired from the bench in 2017. He was first elected in 2004 and was reelected in 2010 and 2016. He previously had served as an assistant district attorney for Juneau County and an assistant state public defender. He also worked in private practice and served as a lieutenant colonel for the U.S. Army Reserve.

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Slain retired Wisconsin judge attended law school in St. Paul