We often hear that justice, personified as Justitia, is blind: that she is impartial, temperate, and reasonable. Blind, perhaps, but only to the superficial, the emotional, or the self-interested. A statue of Justitia so sculpted sits before many court houses.
I don’t recall a similar statue in Walworth County, our county seat, and it’s probably better if we don’t have one; why give someone a false impression?
There’s a story from Fox 6 Milwaukee about Walworth County’s lawsuit against a crime victim to collect part of the cost of an expert the county hired to aid in the prosecution of those who victimized her.
It’s — how should one say? — an astonishing and disgraceful departure from legal custom in Wisconsin.
Here’s a video tape of the Fox 6 television report, with my remarks thereafter —
Speaking to the Press. If a decision is important enough to file suit, then it should be important enough for a sit-down interview. Walworth County contends that a crime victim broke an oral promise, and that over eleven thousand is owed to the county. If it’s that important that a promise has been broken, can we not expect that the district attorney who runs the office seeking its enforcement will speak conventionally on the matter? Must he stand there, looking to my mind neither convincing nor comfortable, and explain the matter from the middle of an office?
Why So Little Support for Taxpayers? In his on-camera remarks, D.A. Koss contends that “taxpayers don’t have a lot of money.”
After taxes, that’s true.
Let’s assume – and it need be assumption alone – that this declaration from the D.A. is a genuine consideration of taxpayer needs.
One might consider D.A. Koss’s remarks laudable, were one not to learn from the Fox 6 reporter that Walworth County was willing to reduce its claim by — wait for it — 90% after the matter aired on television. What then, to make of Koss’s implication that he and Walworth County are the champions of the taxpayers’ money?
It’s an uncertain champion who sacrifices 90% of his charge’s claim. When America’s thirteen colonies sought independence from England, America did not offer to settle the conflict for 1.3 colonies. One might — just might — have doubted the resolution behind the effort.
One might – just might – doubt the claim now.
A Purse String is Showing. Why, then, use the power of the office, if not for a principled resolve? There’s the risible complaint that all this wasn’t in the budget.
Please. That a long standing incumbent miscalculated his budget does not — should never — justify suing a crime victim for the money. It should never be a matter of an official’s accounting miscalculation that justice should be distorted to penalize a victim. There’s more than enough money in Walworth County government.
I have been to Elkhorn countless times, and among the many bureaucrats and high-placed county officials who work there, I have yet to see one who looked to be going hungry.
Worse still, by far: No one should ever charge a victim for these expenses. It’s a shameful distortion of our understanding of justice, as we do not compel those criminally injured to pay a prosecutor’s expenses – including experts – for prosecution of wrongdoing.
Who in the Wisconsin Attorney General’s office supported a lawsuit against a crime victim? Well, I’m not sure.
Although D.A. Koss contends that his office checked with the Wisconsin Attorney General’s Office, and Asst. D.A. Madson contended that the approving official might have been Asst. A.G. Weber, that state office has denied either approval or even discussion of the matter, as Fox 6 has reported.
Consider Fox 6’s reporting, transcribed:
“A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office says Weber never even discussed the case with Walworth County, much less approved of the arrangement…and no one else did, either.”
Elkhorn may be the county seat of Walworth County, but it is also, sadly, the seat of shamelessness and embarrassment.
Note: I have no connection to the victim being sued in this matter; my remarks are based on public reporting.