Judge Dennis Challeen was born in rural Chisago County, Minn., in 1936. He was educated in a rural, one-room grade school, and at Braham High School; he worked his way through Stout, the U of M, and graduated from William Mitchell College of Law in 1963. He practiced law in Winona and was appointed to the municipal bench in 1964 by Gov. Rolvaag, and thereafter to the county and district court, retiring in 1999 after 35 years of service.
In the early ‘70s he began the first-in-the-nation concept of sentencing non-violent offenders to community service cleaning up parks and roadways. Considered controversial and without legal precedent, it is now commonplace throughout the nation and in foreign countries. In 1978 he was invited to be on the Faculty of the National Judicial College where he served as guest lecturer and remained on its faculty for 33 years, his name permanently installed in its Hall of Honor. In 1980 he was interviewed for the National Judges Journal, which created the framework for restorative justice (now used nationally).
A popular speaker, he was invited to speak at judicial education seminars in 43 of 50 states and three provinces of Canada. He authored five books on criminal justice, selling over 6,000 copies. During retirement he wrote community columns for the Winona Daily News and the Winona Post. Quotes from his books were spoken in British Parliament and his words opened a worldwide conference on corrections held at The Hague, Netherlands, in 2014. He also held morning “Coffee Court” at Schniepp’s.
He is survived by his son, Daniel, Stillwater, Minn., and grandchildren, Miranda and Marina; son, William, Winona; and special friend, Susan Davey, Winona.
At his request there will be no traditional funeral, only a private burial at Woodlawn. He also wished there to be no contributions or flowers. Instead, he wants those who live on to read a book, look up an old friend, adopt an orphan puppy or kitten, plant a tree, put up a birdhouse, canoe the backwaters, hike the bluffs, and donate your guns to the police department.