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OLR wants to suspend former DA’s license (UPDATE)

By: Associated Press//December 1, 2011//

OLR wants to suspend former DA’s license (UPDATE)

By: Associated Press//December 1, 2011//

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Former Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz is facing a six-month suspension of his law license for 11 counts of alleged misconduct, but the unusual circumstances may warrant a different sanction.

The Office of Lawyer Regulation filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Wednesday, claiming that Kratz engaged in sexual harassment of a domestic abuse victim and “offensive behavior,” both of which are violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Dean Dietrich, former chair of the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Professional Ethics Committee, said the complaint presents an unusual set of circumstances that could prompt the Supreme Court to deviate from the recommended sanction.

“In a case like this where the issues surrounding the lawyer was as a servant of the court and a servant of the public,” he said, “I suspect the court will look at this and exercise its view of what should be the appropriate discipline if any.”

Dietrich declined to comment if the six-month recommendation by OLR is appropriate, but said history doesn’t offer much guidance on an appropriate sanction in the case against Kratz, who resigned as district attorney in October 2010.

According to the complaint, in 2009 Kratz sent 30 racy texts over three days to a then-25-year-old domestic abuse victim. He was prosecuting the woman’s ex-boyfriend at the time.

He called the woman a “tall, young, hot nymph,” told her he wanted her to “be so hot” and touted himself as “the prize” with a $350,000 house, according to the complaint.

OLR director Keith Sellen declined to comment on the reason behind a recommended sixth-month suspension.

But Dietrich said that OLR investigators likely tried to compare Kratz’s case to others that received six-month suspensions.

Former Calumet County DA Ken Kratz

However, he said the difficulty in doing so is that the allegations against Kratz are not garden variety attorney misconduct typically involving misrepresentation of a client.

“This is dealing with allegations of violating the attorney’s oath as well as inappropriate conduct in kind of a communications setting,” Dietrich said. “The rules and discipline more often deal with client representation issues, so I think this is an unusual type of complaint and there isn’t a lot of guidance on what a reasonable level of discipline is.”

After resigning as a prosecutor, Kratz opened his own law firm in Kimberly where he practices criminal defense, drunken driving, divorce and personal injury cases, according to the firm’s website.

A secretary at his office, who declined to give her name, said Kratz had no comment on the pending case.

Kratz was cleared of criminal wrongdoing by the Wisconsin Department of Justice, but the 2009 domestic abuse victim filed a civil lawsuit against Kratz. The case is pending in federal court alleging sexual harassment.

Kratz self-reported the text messages to OLR, which subsequently closed its case against in March 2010 without any disciplinary recommendation.

The office concluded he acted inappropriately although he didn’t commit any ethical violations, but OLR reopened its investigation in September 2010.

Sellen declined to comment on what prompted his office to re-open the investigation against Kratz, but he acknowledged the unique circumstances of the case.

“We’ve had cases involving sexual misconduct or sexual harassment in the past,” he said. “I don’t recall another one involving a district attorney or text messages being evidence in a recent case.”

After the initial investigation concluded, more women started coming forward with allegations against Kratz. Again, state prosecutors concluded Kratz didn’t commit any criminal offenses, but forwarded the files to the OLR to supplement its new investigation.

According to the complaint, during the same time period Kratz sent the text messages, he made lewd remarks about oral sex to a social worker worried about testifying in a parental rights case. He also told her he wanted to go to Las Vegas and have large-chested women serve him drinks.

The complaint went on to say Kratz made comments to another social worker about a court reporter’s breasts.

The complaint noted, too, that a woman Kratz prosecuted for theft in 2006 accused him of sexually assaulting her at her apartment in late 2009. Kratz insisted the sex was consensual, according to the complaint, but the OLR still said he engaged in offensive behavior and harassment based on sex.

Finally, the complaint said Kratz made sexual comments to a woman who wanted him to help her win a gubernatorial pardon for a drug conviction he had prosecuted. During a meeting in his office he asked the woman about sexual scenarios and followed up with text messages asking the woman to impress him.

Kratz has 20 days to file a formal response with the OLR. According to Sellen, the Supreme Court will appoint a referee to preside over the case, hold a hearing if necessary and issue a report to the justices with a recommendation on discipline.

The justices will ultimately decide what misconduct, if any, took place and decide what punishment to impose.

The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

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