A Bit More on D.A. Chisholm, Investigations, and Election Results

Yesterday I linked to a story from Annysa Johnson of the Journal Sentinel about Milwaukee D.A. John Chisholm’s proposed investigation:  Milwaukee DA John Chisholm calls for a statewide review of Catholic Church abuse files.  In an email last night, a reader sent along a detailed assessment of what an investigation would require, and I replied privately to that email.

This post mentions a key part of that email exchange from last night: an investigation like this will require state resources (and should receive them). Even large counties would not be able to manage a statewide sexual abuse inquiry thoroughly.

While it’s true that district attorneys across the state have complained about inadequate staffing, it’s also true that not all prosecutors and investigators are suited to this work. Too many years working on low-level offenses have left some prosecutors with shallow benches.  Personnel sidelined for years into second-tier work can’t reasonably be shifted to these matters.  Mentoring in the applicable kind of work matters, for lawyers and non-lawyers, and without that experience an investigation risks incomplete findings or (far worse) alienating potential complainants.

Johnson’s Journal Sentinel story makes plain that Chisholm sees the need for help (“Chisholm said he would like to work with district attorneys around the state and newly elected Attorney General Josh Kaul to review all abuse allegations over the last 50 years”).

It’s notable that the well-publicized Pennsylvania grand jury report came from a grand jury to which the Commonwealth’s attorney general presented as part of a two-year investigation. No single county shouldered this matter alone; it required Commonwealth-wide resources.

Although nothing about an investigation like this should depend on an election, consider this: would an investigation of this scope have even been possible without Josh Kaul winning the 2018 Wisconsin attorney general’s race?

It was a close election – those who don’t think voting matters might wish to consider that question, and how the right choice opens possibilities otherwise ignored.

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