Pursuing happiness: An interview with Judge John Hotchkiss

By Taylor Schoenberg

Taylor Schoenberg is a junior at Waterville High School and a student in Jessie Swider’s English class. Schoenberg chose to write about Douglas County Superior Court Judge John Hotchkiss for a class assignment focusing on an event, person or group that pursues happiness.


One who is dedicated and determined to go into law to be a judge must go through the proper education and take assessments such as the bar exam.

John Hotchkiss is one such man, who journeyed through the steps to achieve his position as a judge.

“In order to become a judge, you have to be a lawyer. In order to become a lawyer you have to get an undergraduate degree from college, which takes about four years. And then you have to get a law degree that takes another three years, so that’s seven years of college,” Hotchkiss explained. “I was appointed to be the Superior Court judge of Douglas County. You can also run for election and be elected to be a judge, but I was appointed.”

Hotchkiss has been a judge for almost 20 years. He practiced law for 18½ years, then he decided he wanted to be a judge.

As a judge, one of the things Hotchkiss enjoys is that “you certainly meet all kinds of people and I think it’s intellectually stimulating. You get to know pretty much all areas of law as opposed to specializing in one or two particular areas of the law. I like to think that I help people.”

“The law plays a big role in the people’s happiness but the effect is not always recognized,” he added. “I mean the laws are there to keep us safe. Being safe and knowing that there are laws that follow our rights as citizens creates a happier nation for all in America.”

According to Hotchkiss on how the law affects the people’s happiness, “If you won a lawsuit, you’d get awfully happy. Unfortunately, if you lose a lawsuit, then you’re not very happy. I think that kind of depends on where you’re at in the legal spectrum. If it has to do with your children, then sometimes protecting your children can make you happy. If it has to do with recovering an award you receive from injury, that could make you happy. But I think in general, there’s not very many people who enjoy being in the judicial system.”

When asked if the government pursues happiness Hotchkiss explained, “I don’t know that the government pursues happiness. The government conducts a business and it sets not only a rule of law. We need to conduct ourselves to be within the law. But also taxes and other governmental functions that they do. So, I don’t know if the government itself pursues happiness but I think they try. I hope they try to do things that would make us citizens happy but, that doesn’t always work.”

Outside the courtroom, Hotchkiss describes how he pursues happiness as “family… kids… grandchildren and the things that I do outside of practicing law, whether that would be the activities outdoors or getting together with my three sisters and their families.”

Judge Hotchkiss is the perfect example of someone who enforces the law to protect the people of Waterville and the county.