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In Memoriam Justice Wolle

Justice Charles Wolle.
The Iowa Judicial Branch is saddened to report former Justice Charles Wolle passed away on Monday, December 6, 2022. He served on the Iowa Supreme Court from 1983 until he was appointed United States District Judge for the Southern District of Iowa on August 6, 1987.

Born at Sioux City, Iowa, October 16, 1935, he received his A.B. degree from Harvard College in 1959, and his J.D. degree from the University of Iowa College of Law in 1961. He served in the U.S. Army Reserve from 1961-67. He practiced law in Sioux City from 1961-80, and was appointed to the district court in 1981 where he served until his appointment to the supreme court.

He was a member of the National Association of State Trial Judges and the American College of Trial Lawyers. He served on the judicial writing faculty at the National Judicial College since 1983.

An interview of Justice Wolle is on the Judicial Branch website at  

Statements from the Supreme Court Regarding the Death of Justice Charles Wolle

I was fortunate to know Justice Wolle as a friend of my father's during their time together on the Iowa Supreme Court. Dad was on the supreme court from 1978 to 2008 and Justice Wolle served from 1983 to 1987. The two attended law school at the University of Iowa at about the same time and, when dad was editor of the Iowa Law Review, they worked together on at least one project. Justice Wolle left the court when he was appointed to serve on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa. I admired Justice Wolle for his amazing knowledge of the law, history, the many countries he visited, and his love of sports. I am very sorry about his passing and will remember him as an interesting person and outstanding jurist.

Chief Justice Susan Christensen

Justice Wolle taught us all that being a judge need not be complicated.  You need intelligence, a willingness to work hard, and a fundamental sense of fairness.  Long opinions, hand-wringing over results, and “judicial philosophies” are not required. His judicial career is a fine model for all of us, especially today.

I should also mention that my spouse clerked for Justice Wolle after he became a federal district judge. Elizabeth and I didn’t know each other then, but of course later on we encountered Justice Wolle at various events as a couple. I could tell how much he valued and cared for those who had worked for him, including my spouse. He shared his love for poetry with them. That’s also a good model for today. My thoughts and prayers are with Kerstin and the rest of the family.

Justice Edward Mansfield

Judge Wolle was a bright and insightful jurist with a keen eye for the real issues in a dispute.   He had an independent mind with a proper dash of skepticism regarding the merits of cases based on complicated factual inferences or five step legal constructions.  Yet, he was not afraid of crisp novel issues with potential merit. With these characteristics, Judge Wolle was a valued teacher to many lawyers, judges, and those around him. We honor him today and his contributions will stay with us in memory.  Most important, though, is the deepest sympathy we offer to his family and to the many who loved him.  Our thoughts are with you. 

Justice Brent Appel (Ret.), Iowa Supreme Court (2006-2022)

It was my privilege and great pleasure to serve with Charles “Chuck” Wolle both as an Iowa state trial judge as well as a member of the Iowa Supreme Court.  Chuck was not only a splendid colleague but an important mentor.  Like many others, I was the beneficiary of judicial writing classes that Chuck taught at the National Judicial College and at Iowa judicial conferences.  His presentations were always clever, skillful, and fun.  I especially recall his focus on recognizing and avoiding ambiguity in judicial writing --- an important concern for any judge, new or experienced.  Chuck was a very collegial member of the supreme court, regularly checking in with colleagues about pending cases to pose questions or suggest helpful opinion edits.  And although a remembrance like this ought to recall the “highlights” of Chuck’s long and impressive career as a judge, I can’t help but recall how very humorous, kind, and interesting he was outside the courtroom.  Just thinking about him makes me smile.  Chuck was a long-distance runner as well as a mountain climber.  He climbed Mt. Harvard, one of Colorado’s fourteen-thousand-foot peaks, a tribute to his undergraduate alma mater.   More importantly, Chuck’s service to the judiciary of Iowa and the federal courts inspired all around him to work harder, always with integrity, and with respect for every human being.  My life was enriched for having known Chuck Wolle as a colleague and friend, and my heart goes out to Kersten and their sons and families for their loss.

Justice Linda K. Neuman (Ret.), Iowa Supreme Court (1986-2003)

Judge Wolle was a brilliant jurist and an honest, hardworking, funkily humorous, and exceptionally kind man. I was so grateful to have been given the opportunity to serve as his second supreme court law clerk. Judge Wolle was a mentor before the word came into vogue, guiding and encouraging me throughout my career. His support propelled me to my current position and his research and writing practices served as my template. I am deeply indebted to him and to his wonderful wife Kerstin, who hosted many law clerk gatherings over the years and remembered significant events in our lives. My deepest sympathy and thoughts are with her and with her family.

Anuradha Vaitheswaran, Judge, Iowa Court of Appeals

I am forever grateful to Judge Wolle for allowing me to serve as his law clerk at both the Iowa Supreme Court and the Iowa District Court for the Southern District of Iowa. The positive impact he made on my legal career and my personal life cannot be overstated. His brilliant legal mind and intellect, appreciation for the finely written word, solicitude for others, and curiosity and independent thinking, made him a judge for whom I hold immeasurable respect. As well, his enduring friendship, penchant for all things thrifty, sharp elbows and endless endurance on the basketball court, and omnipresent subtle and probing wit—and often goofy humor—will stay with me.

Favorite anecdotes about Judge Wolle, whether personal or from the bench, are legion, and all are dear to me. Suffice to say I am grateful for the countless fond memories of Judge Wolle. He will be missed.

Assistant Counsel to the Chief Justice Timothy S. Eckley

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