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Coon Rapids Native And Former Alaska Chief Justice Joel Bolger

River to River, hosted by Ben Kieffer

In 1978, Joel Bolger of Coon Rapids graduated from the University of Iowa College of Law with little money and not a lot of job prospects. Bolger decided to take a position as a public defender in rural Alaska. The plan was to stay only one year and return to Iowa, but he never did.

Bolger went on to build a career as a public defender in several rural communities across Alaska and eventually went into private practice. Becoming a judge was not on Bolger's mind until the 1990s when he took his first district court judgeship. Bolger would eventually work his way through the judicial system and was appointed to the Alaska Supreme Court in 2013. Bolger announced his retirement as Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court this June.

On this episode, host Ben Kieffer asks Bolger to reflect on highlights of his career, his Iowa roots and the future of the judicial system.


  • Joel Bolger, former Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court, Coon Rapids native, University of Iowa College of Law graduate
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River
Rick Brewer was a producer for IPR's Talk of Iowa and River to River