Judge retires after 33 years of public service
It took almost 12 years for him to leave the House and around 20 to leave the bench. As of today, 26th Judicial District Judge Bruce Bolin is officially retired after 33 years of public service.
Bolin was brought up in a family of law and public service. His father was a state representative, a district attorney and a district judge. His older brother is still a practicing lawyer.
"We were encouraged to go into law," he said. "He thought it was a great honor and privilege to be elected into public service and he encouraged us to do that, but he didn't really push us too hard."
Born on Sept. 28, 1950 in Springhill, Bolin moved to Minden at the early age of three when his father was elected district judge.
"I was born in Springhill, moved to Minden soon thereafter – and lived in Minden continuously until I recently moved to Bossier," said Bolin.
In 1968 Bolin graduated from Minden High School. He went to Northwestern State University and then to LSU, finally leaving LSU with a law degree in 1976.
During his time at LSU, Bolin was able to go to school abroad. While in London, he took time to travel throughout Europe on a Eurail pass.
The closeness of the countries made for an interesting trip, according to Bolin. One could be in a country with one culture and language, and in the matter of a few hours be immersed in a completely different culture and language.
Once home, he was an associate in Jack Montgomery's law firm. During that time he was approached to do something more.
Harmon Drew, Sr. was District 10 State Representative at the time, and had been elected as a Minden city judge. Drew contacted Bolin about running in the special election to fill his old seat.
"A lot of it just has to do with timing," Bolin said. "It was not that I had some huge, planned ambitious career."
So, a short two years after coming home from law school, he was elected at age 27 to fill Drew's seat in the legislature. Even at his early age, Bolin was only the youngest in the House for a short time. Around a year after he was sworn in, Mary Landrieu was elected at age 24.
His time in the legislature provided Bolin with a broader view of the state.
"I think the thing you learn the most about serving in the legislature is having to serve in the House with 105 other people," he said. "If you let yourself, you'll really learn a lot about Louisiana. You learn about the problems all over the state."
At various points while in the legislature, Bolin chaired the criminal justice, judiciary and natural resources committees. He said chairing the committees and serving in the House provided guidance for his next position.
"It's really good training to be a judge," he said. "It's the same decision-making process. You hear from both sides and weigh and balance things. Then, you make a decision you think is in the best interest of everybody."
In 1990, Bolin was elected to the 26th Judicial District (Division E) bench and left the legislature to come home. Eugene Eason filled the remainder of his term, and the seat went to Everett Doerge in the 1991 election.
During his time as a judge, Bolin saw both civil and criminal cases. The criminal cases ranged from traffic violations to capital cases.
"The Supreme Court mandates that we are randomly assigned cases on a numerical basis," he said. "Everybody gets a fair load, and we all hear everything from the bottom to the top. We all hear all subject matter."
One specialization has been formed recently, though. Bolin has sat on a drug court. Drug courts provide an opportunity for those convicted of lesser non-violent offenses.
"Once you go into the drug court, it's really intense supervision," he said. "The people are required to go to their meetings and counseling. If they complete the program, then the conviction comes off their record."
One theme that runs throughout all that Bolin spoke of is fairness. Seeing both sides of an issue and judging carefully and fairly are important to him. He mentioned advice that was given to him about being a judge, but it could apply to life in general.
"You have to be careful not to get full of yourself as a judge," Bolin said. "You don't have to be the smartest person in the world. Just be very fair, give everybody their day in court, treat everybody with respect and do what you really think is right without trying to second guess yourself or be over-influenced by public opinion.
"Those are pretty good rules to follow."
In retirement, Bolin plans to serve as a mediator part time. He said he wants to keep his hand in the law, but is happy not to practice as an attorney.
He also looks forward to spending more time with his daughters and young grandchildren, and hopes to make it to more LSU games.
For his time in public service, Bolin had good things to say about the people of Webster.
"People in Webster Parish are very responsible citizens," he said. "They seem to have a lot of respect for the authority of law. Even though they may not particularly like it, they show up for jury duty and when selected they serve and do a good job.
"I guess it's the old-fashioned thing somebody once told me, good people just rise to the occasion."