Judge Henry Eslinger, Class of 1985, Retires From Bench
By: Chris Bieri, Grand Forks Herald
From laws of physics to laws of state: Judge Eslinger retires after over 25 years
Henry J. Eslinger spent 15 years as a high school teacher. For the last 13 years of his career, the Grand Forks municipal judge has taught from the bench. The 68-year-old native of Elgin, N.D., is retiring after a career that included more than 25 years as a judge and lawyer. There will be an open house for him from 1 to 4 p.m. Thursday at municipal court in the county jail at 1702 N. Washington St.
Henry J. Eslinger spent 15 years as a high school teacher. For the last 13 years of his career, the Grand Forks municipal judge has taught from the bench.
"Being a teacher is very much like being a judge," he said. "There's a courtroom full of people. Each person needs to understand the law... To me, my job here has been a lot of teaching, to prevent people from coming back."
The 68-year-old native of Elgin, N.D., is retiring after a career that included more than 25 years as a judge and lawyer. There will be an open house for him from 1 to 4 p.m. Thursday at municipal court in the county jail at 1702 N. Washington St.
Eslinger graduated from Dickinson State College in 1965. He made a number of stops as a science teacher, from Broadus, Mont., to Grand Forks.
He received his Master of Science Teaching degree from UND. At the age of 40, he decided to make a career change.
Questions and answers
Entering law school as an older student was a mixed bag.
"That made some things difficult and some things easier," he said. "I was older and wiser, but it had been a long time since I studied that hard."
He found that studying law required an entirely different approach.
"I was used to teaching physics and chemistry," he said. "The purpose there is to find an answer for a problem. When you go to law school, you're not really trained to find an answer for a problem, you're trained to find all the questions that problem might present. When you write an exam, they want a scoop shovel, not a sewing needle. I had some initial difficulty."
After graduating from UND Law School in 1985, he started his own practice.
Eslinger had always been interested in American Indian issues. He said three murder trials he won on reservations were highlights of his career as a defense attorney.
After 13 years as a lawyer, he ran for a district judge seat. After losing that first race, he won his current seat by 29 votes in 1998 and has run unopposed since.
Art of communication
He plans to retire to Arizona, where he wants to hunt, fish, hike and explore with his wife, JoAnn.
He doesn't expect to stay involved in the legal field, but he said his time as a judge has been rewarding.
"It's a great job. I like dealing with people. I seem to have an ability to communicate with people that are in trouble. Much is said about people that are repeat offenders. They are by far a minority. Ninety percent of the people that come in here will not be seen again.
"That gives me a challenge, to make sure that goes up to 99 percent. That's what I like most. Being able to help people and straighten them out. It gives you a sense of accomplishment."
Reach Bieri at (701) 780-1118; (800) 477-6572, ext. 118; or send email to email@example.com.