Wisconsinwide ‘problem’: Dodge County DA cites lack of lawyers in resignation letter

By mid-January, there will be no full-time prosecutors left in the Dodge County district attorney’s office.

And said the elected district attorney of the province, the high level of lack of workers has caused him to resign from the job he held. for more than ten years.

The challenges facing Dodge County are part of a “problem” across the state, as Wisconsin struggles to hire DA assistants who will do a tough job for low wages, wrote DA Kurt Klomberg of the Dodge County is gone. his resignation letter.

The southeastern Wisconsin district has four assistant DA vacancies and all will become vacant on January 17 amid two retirements, an extended family and an attorney who is leaving to work for another DA’s office. DA, Klomberg said in an interview with Wisconsin Public Radio. . There is also an administrative attorney, who is employed by the district to handle many administrative duties, but this person retired on Feb.

Three retired attorneys have agreed to help part-time, but Klomberg said there aren’t enough people to handle the workload in a county that files more than 1,100 criminal charges each year.

“I knew that would cause me to take more action because I wouldn’t have time to properly discuss my issues,” said Klomberg, a Republican who was DA since 2010. “I will not be able to do it. to fulfill my responsibility to criminals. Then you know, the truth was at the heart of my decision I have young children and I have to be a father, and they’ve made a lot of sacrifices for me. , and I couldn’t ask them to do that.”

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is calling for nominations through Friday’s deadline for Klomberg’s replacement as Dodge County District Attorney.

Meanwhile, Klomberg starts work next week as an assistant district attorney in neighboring Green Lake County, where she said she will be able to do the work she loves in an office that fully staffed.

Wisconsin’s starting salary for paralegals is $27.24 an hour, a level that makes it difficult for the state to compete with the private sector and even with many government jobs when hiring attorneys, the report said. said Klomberg. The emotional labor can be a tough sell, especially when so many candidates have student loans, Klomberg added.

“Prosecutors need to investigate incriminating information more closely,” said Klomberg, a former president of the Wisconsin District Attorney’s Association. “But there are images that I have that I accidentally showed once or twice, 15, 20 years ago, and those images are in my mind when I close my eyes.”

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As of Wednesday, there were 48 DA assistant positions available statewide, representing nearly 11 percent of the total vacancies across Wisconsin, according to data released from the Wisconsin Department of Administration.

Dodge County’s struggle to hire attorneys is not isolated, said Wisconsin District Attorneys Association President Eric Toney. Toney added that many DA offices across the state have become “extremely understaffed.”

The change is another problem – about 59 percent of the lawyers working for the state in the last ten years in 2012 left those jobs in 2022, he said.

“It starts to create a public safety issue when law enforcement is making arrests and referrals, and we don’t have the quality and the number of attorneys to make sure we can review those cases and prosecute them.” them in the process,” he said. said.

Of the The association is asking lawmakers to approve a salary increase for DA assistants over the next two years the state budget will start at $35 an hour, with eligibility for additional increases as appropriate. The proposal, made by a coalition of criminal justice groups, would also bring the starting wage for public defenders to $35 an hour.

Elected district attorney selected in 2020 making between $106,288 and $145,288 annuallydepending on the population of the district in which they work.

In Dodge County, Klomberg said, the staffing crisis will cause court delays and prolong the trial for both the accused and the accused.

He described being a public prosecutor as his calling, and said he wished he hadn’t felt pressured to resign.

“The fact that we are in this situation where there is someone like me, who gives his life to this position, to this job, should walk away from an office that I am very proud of because I would be doing bad things if I did. I won’t do it – and I will spoil my family’s happiness if they don’t – it’s very sad,” he said. “One of the worst things that ever happened to me.”

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect the salary of district attorneys elected in 2020, the percentage of DA assistant vacancies in Wisconsin and to accurately reflect the request of the Wisconsin District Attorneys Association.

(tagsTranslated)Wisconsin Public Radio

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