Deadline Today: District attorneys apply for more prosecutors from state budget

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(WSAW) -- Thursday was the deadline for district attorneys across Wisconsin to apply for additional assistant district attorneys for their county.

MGN Online

About six months ago, a task force made up of criminal justice leaders around the state argued for more resources, including more prosecutors, to address a backlog of criminal cases. In short, they argued having more prosecutors would speed up the investigation and court process for victims and defendants, and create more manageable workloads for district attorneys' offices.

The legislature and the governor agreed the need was there. The budget funds nearly 65 more full time assistant district attorneys, 64.95 exactly. It divided that count to specific counties and determined how many each county was getting, but the governor vetoed the allocation.

Because of that, district attorneys need to apply for positions through the Department of Administration. DOA assistant deputy secretary, Tia Torhorst told NewsChannel 7 the request needs to include how the county plans "to create, expand or continue treatment alternatives and diversion programs; meet with victims prior to charging; address backlogs; utilize diversions and/or alternatives to incarceration; and any additional information necessary for DOA to make an informed decision regarding allocations."

Taylor County District Attorney Kristi Tlusty said according to the workload study, she only needs a part-time prosecutor to manage the caseload. That's far below many other counties throughout the state, but she's also the only prosecutor in the county.

"We don't have anybody who's able to provide backup services to us if we wanted to take any time off, such as vacation, or attending work related conferences, or even taking a sick day," she said.

She explained she and the Price County district attorney, who also is the only prosecutor for his county, have an agreement to back each other up in those circumstances for immediate needs like emergency hearings or law enforcement search warrants. She clarified, that does not mean he completes her work while she's gone.

Tlusty said being the only prosecutor effects how quickly she can get to the cases. Those with hard deadlines get first priority, while ongoing cases fall lower on that list.

She is hoping a full time prosecutor can be hired and split his or her time between Taylor and Price counties.

There are a total of 10 counties that only have their district attorney as prosecutor. They are Taylor, Price, Forest, Iron, Bayfield, Crawford, Lafayette, Marquette, and Pepin counties.

Those additional prosecutors can begin work as early as Oct. 1.