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Wis. Judge Found Dead of Gunshot Wound in Apparent Suicide

Posted Aug 19, 2011 9:49 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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The local community is in shock over the apparent suicide this week of a judge in Racine County, Wis.

Circuit Court Judge Dennis Barry, 64, was found dead yesterday morning in Racine's Lincoln Park not far from his car. He had suffered a gunshot wound to his head, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

There is no reported motive for the judge to commit suicide, but the county medical examiner said officials have authorities had "no reason to believe it was not a suicide," the newspaper reports. Friends and colleagues described Barry as an unusually caring and devoted judge who was very active in his community.

“He was always there if you needed him… He was one of the best judges Racine County had,” former state representative Bonnie Ladwig tells the Caledonia, Wis., Patch. “He was a caring person. He looked at all sides of story. He was thoughtful and thorough, and he wanted to do what was right.”

Last seen leaving the courthouse at 3 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, Barry was reported missing by his wife early the next morning, the Journal Sentinel says.

Racine County Circuit Judge Eugene Gasiorkiewicz told the newspaper that Barry "devoted his legal career to the protection of the people of his community and the administration of justice in a fair and evenhanded manner.

"He was devoted to his family, his community and to the concept of justice," Gasiorkiewicz continued. "He was an excellent lawyer and an equally excellent judge."

A 1973 graduate of Marquette University Law School, Barry worked as an assistant Kenosha County prosecutor and in private practice before he was elected at a young age as Racine's district attorney. Within two years he was appointed to the state-court bench in 1980, at age 33.

He was also known for his work to reform juvenile justice laws, reports WHBL.

"As defense attorneys, we do not always agree with the decisions made by the bench," wrote attorney Adrienne Moore in an email to the Journal Times. She serves as first assistant in the Public Defenders Office Racine Region.

"However, we respect those judges who are objective and do what they believe is appropriate. Judge Barry was one of those judges," Moore wrote. "He did what he believed was appropriate despite what the district attorney or defense attorney might think or say. ... He was one of Racine's finest, and I for one will miss him dearly."

A number of lawyers struggle with depression, which can be exacerbated by the demands of an exacting profession and the tendency of attorneys to hold themselves to very high standards. However, help is available, as a previous ABAJournal.com post details.

Related coverage:

ABA Journal: "A Death in the Office"

ABA Journal: "Hunting Happy: In Grim Times, a Search for Joy in Law Practice Gains Ground"

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