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Legal Ethics

Wis. Disciplinary Group Reopens Probe of Embattled DA Now Accused by Multiple Women

Posted Sep 24, 2010 12:25 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Citing "substantial new information" related to a possible "pattern of conduct" by a prosecutor accused of sexually harassing women in case-related text messages, Wisconsin's Office of Lawyer Regulation announced today they are reopening an ethics case against embattled Calumet County District Attorney Kenneth Kratz.

Although it had previously dismissed a complaint made by Stephanie Van Groll, 26, after finding no ethics violation by Kratz, the OLR will now reinvestigate her case while, it appears, looking into complaints also made against him by three other women, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

As detailed in earlier ABAJournal.com posts, Kratz admittedly sent Van Groll suggestive text messages while overseeing the prosecution of a domestic abuse case against her ex-boyfriend. However, he told the OLR in a letter that he did so because he "perceived some flirtation" on Van Groll's part at a meeting about her case.

Among the three other complaints, a law student says Kratz sent her harassing texts, too, when she sought his help obtaining a pardon of a years-old drug conviction.

A third woman's complaint reportedly is similar to the other two, and a fourth, who apparently was not involved in any case overseen by Kratz, accuses him of asking her to attend an autopsy on a date; Kratz's lawyer called that allegation "completely bogus."

Kratz has refused to step down. He admitted that he used poor judgment in the text messages to Van Groll but said that his mistake wasn't serious enough to force him to leave his job.

After successfully seeking a required citizen complaint, the state governor has opened a separate proceeding to determine whether Kratz should be removed from office.

Meanwhile, some Kratz critics are calling for a third option to be pursued—a citizen ballot petition for a vote to remove him from office, an Appleton Post Crescent editorial notes.

Additional coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "As Gov Leans on Wis. DA in Sext Case, AG Says Lawyer Discipline Group Didn’t Do Its Job"

Northwestern: "Calumet County prosecutor: Another woman offers complaint about Ken Kratz's behavior"

Updated on Sept. 28 to remove implication that the Office of Lawyer Regulation is a part of the State Bar of Wisconsin.

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