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Assistant district attorney enjoys difficult aspects of job


Assistant district attorney enjoys difficult aspects of job


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WLJ Photo by Kevin Harnack

Though Assistant District Attorney Karl Hayes acknowledges prosecuting drug cases can be tough, he does not shy away from the work.

In fact, Hayes, 41, said he “lobbied hard” for his job at the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office, where he leads a team of prosecutors in the county’s felony drug court.

In the past five years, there’s been a large influx of illegal diversion and abuse of prescription drugs coming through the court, Hayes said. Dealing with the related cases takes some level of coping, he said.

“Prosecutors learn to compartmentalize. You have to build a wall to keep that stuff from getting to you because the potential for that is certainly there,” Hayes said. “Every day we deal with situations and actions that people make that are truly dismaying. But you have to kind of seal it off and let yourself have a life outside of it.”

But work can be hard to avoid off the clock.

“I think there is a fascination with criminal law on TV and people get a strange idea of what it might be like [to work in],” Hayes said. “It’s exciting, fast paced and very intense. But to me it’s just my job, and I come here and I work hard.”

— Shayna Miller

What was your worst law school course?

Contracts. Never really understood what was going on there.

What is the best part about being an attorney?

For me, the best part about being an attorney is being trusted to come to the office every day and do the right thing. I enjoy the near-daily opportunity to research and argue complex issues involving constitutional rights. I’m interested in governmental powers and individual liberties. I’m also interested in the history and development of law, so I enjoy reading legal decisions.

What is your favorite thing to do in Wisconsin?

Canoe and camp; hike and scramble; ride my bike; enjoy a good restaurant; watch my kids grow

If you hadn’t become a lawyer, what would you have done?

I was a teacher for a time before I became an attorney. Maybe I’ll do that again at some point. When I was a boy, I wanted to be an astronaut but I became too tall and learned little math.

What song is in heavy rotation on your iPod?

I’m afraid I don’t have an iPod. I do love music, though, and have a good collection. I like to browse through used CDs and find forgotten music.

How many countries have you visited? Which ones?

Italy (three times), France, Spain (but just for lunch), England, Slovenia and Jamaica and Canada (many times)

What is your motto?

Adapt. Improvise. Overcome.

Where would you like to live if you could live anywhere else?

A small, quiet farm somewhere where the winters are milder and where there are mountains.

What can you spend hours doing that’s non law-related?

I like to cook. If I had a garden, I imagine I would spend a lot of time working on it. I play the guitar a little.

What living person do you most admire?

My brothers and sisters, my immediate and extended family. Also, I work with quite a number of admirable people.


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