A day after he made headlines for erupting in anger at the prosecution in Kyle Rittenhouse’s murder trial, Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder continued to draw attention, criticism and accusations of bias.
On Thursday, the judge sparked backlash by making a quip about “Asian food.” And his attempt to honor veterans led the courtroom to applaud a man who appeared to be the only veteran in the room: A witness for the defense.
The longest serving current judge in Wisconsin, Schroeder previously garnered national attention and accusations of favor to the defense in late October when he said the people shot by Rittenhouse couldn’t be called “victims” during the trial.
He does not use “victims”, which is an important part of his courtroom procedures. His decision to let the same people be called “rioters looters or arsonists”, began a pattern. Critics of Rittenhouse blast the judge for being biased and Rittenhouse’s supporters gleefully celebrating the judge’s decisions.
While accusations of bias have mounted during the trial, Kyle Rittenhouse’s mom said Thursday she thought the judge was “very fair.”
Wendy Rittenhouse told Fox News’ Sean Hannity she had been told by locals that “he doesn’t allow no nonsense in his courtroom.”
Those comments came as Schroeder’s latest controversy gained national attention. On Thursday he attempted a joke in response to an inquiry about a lunch break: “I hope the Asian food isn’t coming … isn’t on one of those boats along Long Beach Harbor,” he said.
The comment seemingly referenced the situation unfolding on the West Coast, where a record-breaking number of cargo ships have waited off the coast of California due to a backup at the ports of Los AngelesAnd Long Beach
The joke was criticized by critics.
“The Rittenhouse trial judge, who was bias in his decision,” tweeted Stanford law professor Michele Dauber. “Because all Asian foods come from China like the ships haha, what a bigot!”
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, a Democrat, used the clip to criticize the judge and the judicial system that led him to preside over the trial: “Schroeder has provided an example of how not to be a good judge. He tweeted that Wisconsin’s selection system was also flawed.
The retirement age is not set for them, but they are elected upon initial appointment. These are the reasons we have such intemperate or unfit judges across the country.
Schroeder asked the Courtroom, in an unrelated incident, if any veteran was present at the commencement of Veterans Day proceedings. John Black, an expert witness, was the only person to answer “yes.”
Schroeder asked Black “What branch?”
Black responded “Army, sir.”
Schroeder said, “OK. I believe we can give an applause to those who have served our nation.”
The judge cheered. People in the gallery also began to applaud, including a defense attorney and Rittenhouse.
Recognizing veterans is not out of character for Schroeder, who wore a tie Thursday emblazoned with American flags and whose phone ringtone, as heard in court, is “God Bless the U.S.A.”
But Schroeder risked making Black appear more credible to the jury by asking for applause, according to Steven Wright, a professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Law. Wright thought the moment was a mistake on the judge’s part.
The issue will not be investigated, regardless of what the trial results.
There is likely to be no appeal if Rittenhouse is found not guilty by the jurors. Wright explained that Schroeder’s error in finding Rittenhouse guilty could be seen more as an aid than a point on appeal.
Although social media has been criticized for pointing out the judge frequently, others have suggested that other pundits are arguing the prosecution has failed to address aspects of Rittenhouse.
“Some have criticized Judge Bruce Schroeder after he enforced long-standing constitutional principles,” wrote Jonathan Turley, Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, in a USA TODAY opinion column.
Even without unforced errors made by the prosecution, it was a challenging case. Wisconsin is known for its strong self defense standard. A defendant who claims they have done something to stop a threat is responsible for the prosecution’s defense.
Contributing to: The Associated Press. Follow Drake Bentley on Twitter @DrakeBentleyMJS