Kratz case shows changes to lawyer oversight needed - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Kratz case shows changes to lawyer oversight needed, officials and victims advocates say

By Derek Staahl - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MADISON (WKOW) -- Calumet County D.A. Ken Kratz's resignation is just the beginning.

Today, Governor Jim Doyle issued a statement saying "serious questions remain" with regards to the state's lawyer oversight board, the Office of Lawyer Regulation.

The OLR closed Kratz's case in March without a formal investigation, saying the 30 racy text messages he sent a domestic abuse victim were "inappropriate," but didn't amount to "professional misconduct."

The oversight body has since reopened the case amidst a firestorm of public scrutiny, citing "substantial new information" that shows the texts were part of a larger pattern of conduct.

At least five women have come forward and accused Kratz of inappropriate behavior.

Rep. Terese Berceau (D-28th District) is calling for a legislative audit of the OLR.

"While the legislature doesn't have oversight over disciplining attorneys, we can take a look at how that office functions," she said.

"It's shameful that the Office of Lawyer Regulation didn't see anything wrong or alarming or unprofessional or unethical about this man's conduct. It tells me that the people that work in that office or oversee the process need a little education on domestic violence."

The Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Abuse is calling for criminal charges to be brought against Kratz to help restore public faith in the system.

Policy coordinator Tony Gibart says criminal stalking charges should be considered.

"If at the end of the day, all that happens is District Attorney Kratz is forced to resign, I don't think that sends the right message to victims and citizens in his community."

Office of Lawyer Regulation Director Keith Sellen declined to comment on the body's decision to close Kratz's case and then later reopen it, citing the ongoing investigation.

Sellen did confirm for 27 News that Kratz's resignation will have no effect on its new investigation.

The OLR has the authority to reprimand, or suspend or revoke a lawyer's license.

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