WEST BATH – The bulletin boards outside the chambers of District Court Judge Joseph Field are filled with photos of smiling children: girls in butterfly wings, boys in their football uniforms, graduates in their gowns, and hikers atop Mount Katahdin.

There’s a photocopy of a report card filled with A’s, a certificate for completion of Army training, and a photo of a dinghy built by a boy. A girl’s self-portrait includes a note to Field: “I hope 2 never have 2 see you again on bad terms.”

The mementos are from young people whose lives have intersected with the court. They were children in protective custody cases and juveniles who went through drug court or the Wednesday Afternoon Club, the intensive management program that Field and a colleague started.

In his 20 years as a judge, Field has developed a reputation as an innovator and a champion for juveniles. Field, 64, will retire in the coming months but plans to be on active retired status, so he still will be assigned cases.

Juvenile matters got increasingly important to Field as the nature of District Court work shifted from the more general mix of civil and criminal matters when he became a judge to what essentially became a family court.

“It was the one area of the law where I felt I could have an impact,” Field said.

Field — who’s also known for his bow ties, riding a motorcycle to work and his role in the 2001 film “In the Bedroom” — said the judicial system’s approach has shifted from treating juveniles as miniature adults to one that takes a more holistic outlook.

In the mid-1990s, Field and Judge Michael Westcott created the Wednesday Afternoon Club to apply those newer approaches in a team framework. The judge, the lawyers, the juvenile probation officer and service providers meet with juveniles every other week, in West Bath or Rockland, depending on the group. The program is expected to stop at the end of this year for lack of funding.

The professionals who are involved in the club describe Field as a pillar of consistency for kids who are struggling through unstable lives. They say he has a superb ability to develop a rapport with the youths.

“I have kids in my caseload right now, who I know wouldn’t be in school if they knew they didn’t have that biweekly check-in, progress report to the judge,” said Chris Dumas, a child case manager for Sweetser, an agency that provides mental health services.

Field may reward them with a handshake or a Twizzler. He once allowed a girl to try on his robes after she expressed interest in becoming a judge one day.

When he has to mete out discipline, he looks his subject in the eye, said Jennifer Davis, a defense attorney.

“He’s not afraid to tell a kid to smarten up. He’s not afraid to tell a parent to step up to the plate,” Davis said. “He gets down on their level and really relates.”

Field’s reputation for innovation extends beyond the Wednesday Afternoon Club. He was also one of the first judges to institute a juvenile drug court, which was discontinued when federal funds became unavailable.

He also established a program to make lawyers available in the courthouse to represent defendants and unclog the criminal docket.

Field describes himself as the Honda of the state court system, taking other people’s ideas and turning them into something drivable.

Attorney Don Massey said Field and Westcott, who has retired, were creative forces who developed a more collaborative approach in West Bath. “I think they designed something wonderful,” he said.

In his retirement, Field expects that he and his wife, Genie, will travel, possibly in a van or a Volkswagen bus. He anticipates more sailing, gardening and perhaps some overseas teaching gigs. He also plans a writing project, based on correspondence between his father and grandfather in the 1920s and 1930s.

He will continue as president of the board of Oasis Health Network, which provides services to low-income residents in the Bath-Brunswick area.

Field notes that he still will be working as a judge, on active retired status.

“It isn’t easy work,” he said. “I really love it. I’m just at the point in my life where I’d like to do less of it.”

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

[email protected]