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Dodge County loses nearly all of its full-time prosecutors: Report

A string of retirements and resignations in the office are to blame for the shortage of lawyers.
Posted at 1:08 PM, Jan 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-16 23:12:08-05

DODGE COUNTY, Wis. — Dodge County will no longer have a district attorney and will have just one full-time Assistant District Attorney starting this Wednesday, according to Channel 3000 in Madison.

Channel 3's Naomi Kowles talked with District Attorney Kurt Klomberg, who put in his resignation after finding out he would have been the last prosecutor in the office.

A string of retirements and resignations in the office is to blame for the shortage of lawyers.

Klomberg said when he sent his letter of resignation to Gov. Tony Evers, that the governor's office instead contacted the Department of Administration about using retired state prosecutors to fill the shortage.

That shortage could have major impacts. There's a 48-hour window for people taken into police custody to have their case reviewed by a prosecutor before they're released.

So, will the lack of lawyers impact public safety? Mariam Mackar posed that question to Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt.

“Well, we're certainly concerned with the ability of our courts to be able to prosecute individuals who we take into custody, but what we can say from a law enforcement perspective, is we are not planning to do anything differently than what we have in the past,” said Schmidt.

The sheriff said when it comes to keeping potential criminals off the streets, he doesn't anticipate the shortage to heighten releases from jail custody.

“We are not going to be releasing people because our prosecutors don’t have time to review these cases,” he assured.

But that means other vital aspects of court, like hearings and trials, will have to take a backseat.

That's something former Waukesha County ADA, Mark Langholz, says will pile up quickly.

“It really delays these cases, because you can’t get people into court because you’re so short,” explained Langholz. “Prosecutors are going to have to make very difficult decisions about what cases they can actually prosecute, what cases they have time to work on.”

Both Langholz and Schmidt agree the first step to solving this statewide crisis is by raising the base salary for prosecutors.

Klomberg said the state legislature, which controls starting salaries for DAs, should use its leverage to increase pay. The Wisconsin District Attorney Association wants a starting salary of $70,000 a year, Channel 3000 reports.

"The first step is to make it attractive financially," said Langholz. "Because the job itself is very rewarding, that's never been the issue."

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