DIGGING DEEPER: Amid shortage, 34 counties could soon hire assistant DA’s

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MADISON (WKOW) — District attorneys across the state could soon have additional help in the courtroom.

The Joint Committee on Finance approved Gov. Evers’ proposal to hire more prosecutors addressing a shortage in the system, but far less than what the governor wanted.

Lawmakers approved hiring 30 additional assistant district attorneys, Evers wanted 60. Regardless, DA offices’ say it’s a small step in the right direction to address a shortage.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said their office has been resource-strapped for years.

“Great that the legislature and the governor all acknowledge that there are shortages,” said Ozanne.

He said more attorneys could help speed up cases and allow prosecutors additional time to spend with their clients.

“The reality is we’d have more time to talk to victims to figure out what we need to keep the community safe and possibly moving more cases into diversion,” he said.

If lawmakers pass the proposal and it reaches Evers’ desk, counties would either add additional assistant DA’s, hire part-time employees to full, or allow offices to offer benefits to part-time DA’s.

Counties include; Adams, Barron, Bayfield, Brown, Buffalo, Burnett, Columbia, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, Forest, Green Lake, Iowa, Jackson, Juneau, La Crosse, Langlade, Lincoln, Manitowoc, Marinette, Monroe, Outagamie, Ozaukee, Pierce, Polk, Portage, Racine, Rusk, Sawyer, Sheboygan, Washburn, Washington, Waupaca, and Wood.

As for Dane County, they won’t see any additional staff this time around.

“I’m happy that they’re acknowledging the shortage of resources in prosecutors’ offices and I’m hopeful that in the near future Dane County and Milwaukee County will also be included in those discussions regarding adequate staffing,” said Ozanne.

When the proposal was introduced in February, Ozanna said since he took office in 2010, he’s asked for a dozen more assistant district attorney positions every budget season.

“This is basically a public safety crisis. I think they (lawmakers) also need to understand that what fully funded positions look like so that prosecutors can actually stay in these positions, gain experience and expertise and protect the community.”

 

Other proposals passed regarding courts include:

—Increase in reimbursement rates for private attorneys who offer public defender services from $40 to $70 per hour by 2020

—Raise the salaries of public defenders and prosecutors by 2% each of the next two years

Emilee Fannon

Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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