After 20 years on the bench as one of Hennepin County’s probate referees, Bruce Kruger is retiring. Today, the court sent an announcement of his upcoming retirement party for attorneys and colleagues. The party is scheduled for July 30th from noon to 2:00 p.m. in Courtroom 457. No RSVP is required.
Earlier this year, Hennepin County was seeking to fill two, part-time referee positions. Perhaps this news is the reason.
Referee Kruger will be missed. I found him to be tough, but fair. Whenever I had a probate with feuding relatives, I was always glad to draw Kruger at the hearing. He would get to the core of the matter and had no tolerance for petty bickering that so often accompanies family feuds.
Though his demeanor in the courtroom could be gruff at times, I’ve found him to be personable. Once I met him in his chambers along with opposing counsel for a pretrial hearing. He swiftly guided us to a resolution and then he spent at least another 30 minutes just shooting the breeze with us. If I recall correctly, we talked about fishing, sports, and a few probate “war stories.” He didn’t seem to be in a hurry and, as a younger attorney, I relished the opportunity to get to know a referee whom I appeared before frequently. It seemed the chat would have lasted even longer, but the opposing counsel was in a hurry to go somewhere.
On another occasion in his courtroom for an initial formal hearing, Referee Kruger asked my client whether the decedent’s will had a “written list.” The client responded that, yes, there was a written list. This was news to me since I had never seen it. Obviously, Kruger wanted the written list and the client responded that it was at home. With the signing of the Order appointing my client as the PR suspended, my client and I went out into the hallway to discuss this written list that I hadn’t seen. I discovered that she had misunderstood the question and thought Kruger was referring to “the written list” of inventory of all the decedent’s belongings that my client had prepared. I sheepishly led my client back into the courtroom to correct the record, expecting that somehow I’d be reamed for it as I had seen another judge do in a certain county to the north. To my surprise, Kruger was gracious and thanked us for coming back in to correct the record so quickly. We were thankful as well, since the Order wouldn’t have issued without it.