A mother and a lawyer, Donna Kuchler has not let any one part of her life define her.
As a criminal defense attorney, she’s made it her mission never to let her clients’ mistakes or misconceptions rule them, either.
Kuchler, a partner along with her son, Anthony Cotton, at Kuchler & Cotton SC, Waukesha, brings a family-law approach to the rough-and-tumble practice of criminal defense.
As a mother of three and, at one time, an additional three stepchildren, Kuchler said she was somewhat affectionately referred to as “Mama Kooks” by her kids and their friends. She was the kind of mom who kids could talk to about their issues — but expect to hear the stern truth as she helped them figure a way out.
Now, “Mama Kooks” drives her clients to look for jobs, enters them into housing assistance programs or finds them treatment for addiction issues.
“You have to find out what went wrong,” Kuchler said, “the mindset of the person at that time and realize — I was a teenager once, too, right — that people can certainly make mistakes and change.”
Kuchler said her passion for the law always has been mixed with her family life. She was a bookworm as a legal secretary in the ‘70s, but put aside any further interest in law as she started a family.
Once her youngest child reached elementary school, however, Kuchler finished up her business management degree at Concordia and then drove back and forth to Madison for law school courses at the University of Wisconsin.
“I’d go to school in Madison, the kids would go to their school and at night I’d be home and we’d all study together,” Kuchler said. “There was no TV on in that house.”
Since she started working in criminal defense in the mid-1990s, Kuchler has built a strong reputation in the industry. Six years ago, a Sheboygan law office got a call from a distressed Trinidadian woman in Florida, looking for any legal answers for her son, Rishi’s, unjust infant death case. That firm couldn’t help, but a receptionist had happened to be on the jury of a similar “shaken baby” case in Wisconsin where Kuchler reached an acquittal for her client. The firm put Kuchler in touch with the caller, Jenny Ramgoolie.
Not long after, Kuchler and the Ramgoolie family were strategizing discrepancies in the prosecution’s case and sharing eggplant roti dinners.
“She’s able to … get exactly what she wants, but you’d never know it’s coming,” said Ramgoolie, whose son was found not guilty in March. “She (went) after detectives … but never raised her voice.”