Cerro Gordo County Iowa
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Biography - Judge Carolynn Grupp

Globe Gazette
Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
October 30, 2011, By John Skipper

Grupp retiring after almost 25 years as judge

MASON CITY - Associate District Judge Carolynn Grupp was a small town farm girl who knew what she wanted to do when she grew up.

"I always wanted to go into law," said Grupp, who is retiring after almost 25 years on the bench.

Prior to becoming a judge she was an assistant county attorney and was in private practice before that.

But she started her professional career as a high school teacher, which she says prepared her well for what turned out to be her life's work in law.

"Everything in teaching helps prepare you for other things. You have to organize, you have to look and listen and learn," she said. She grew up in Redfield, in Dallas County.

"I'm a farmer," she said with a laugh. "I graduated from Dexfield High School - named for the communities of Dexter and Redfield. I'm sure the school has many other names now."

She did her undergraduate work at Iowa State University and graduate work at Drake University where "I was one thesis short of a master's degree."

Grupp said in her years on the bench, it wasn't criminals who came before her as much as it was people who made mistakes, some more serious than others.

"We are blessed to live in the Midwest where there are so many hard-working, caring people. Some make bad decisions," she said.

"In the county attorney's office and as a judge, I worked with the juvenile system. It is heart-wrenching to see children who have no choice in situations created by adults," she said, referring to child custody cases.

"But the biggest joy is seeing changes taking place that allow children to be reunited with their parents," said Grupp.

While she has great respect for the law, she said, it can't always adjust to social situations.

"There are limitations on what the law will allow you to do. Social conditions change. Criminal law does not react to that well.

"Look at Prohibition. It did nothing to solve the social conditions of the times. In fact, it contributed to the problem."

Judges have to deal with ever-changing social situations, she said.

Her biggest frustration is the impact of budget cuts on the judiciary - "a drum I beat quite often," she said.

Cerro Gordo County is one of 22 counties in the Second Judicial District which Grupp describes as "bigger than the state of Delaware."

Lack of funding often stalls the judicial process, she said.

"There are fewer and fewer resources and more and more stress. That means less money, more cuts," said Grupp. "We've had cases that were ready to go to trial but couldn't because no court reporter was available. That means people who have been waiting to get their situations resolved have had to wait. And that's frustrating," she said.

County Attorney Carlyle Dalen said Grupp was appointed to the bench at a time when it was dominated by men.

"She paved the way for other women getting into the judicial system," he said. "She's done more for women than anyone I know.

"She's been an exceptional judge, easy to work with."

Retired Judge Gerald Magee said,"She has been a real mainstay in the courthouse. She enjoys a very good reputation with judges and lawyers."

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, December of 2013



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