|For Immediate Release
||CONTACT: Christi Powers
State Bar of Wisconsin
(800) 444-9404, ext. 6025
org cpowers wisbar wisbar cpowers org
New charging guidelines drafted
Goal is to increase balance on how laws are enforced in Milwaukee
MADISON, July 9, 2003 - A group of 19
municipalities, including the Milwaukee County district attorney's
office, the Milwaukee City Attorney's Office and the Milwaukee County
Sheriff's Department, have released a new set of guidelines on how
defendants are charged in non-felony cases. The year-long project
resulted in new standards on how offenses are charged and seeks to
balance how laws are enforced in Milwaukee County
"To have justice, similarly situated defendants must be treated
similarly," said E. Michael McCann, Milwaukee district attorney. "Where
variations existed between the city and some suburbs on how to treat
various types of miscreancy offenses, now all will be treated in the
Overseen by the Milwaukee Bar Association's community relations
committee and the State Bar of Wisconsin's diversity outreach committee,
the Guidelines for the Review of Crimes and Ordinance Violations in
Milwaukee County were compiled by a group of police chiefs, prosecutors,
municipal judges and attorneys from Milwaukee, West Allis, Glendale,
Shorewood, Whitefish Bay, South Milwaukee, and Oak Creek. When
implemented, the guidelines are designed to ensure equal treatment of
similar offenses and save taxpayer dollars.
Whitefish Bay Police Chief Gary Mikulec said that after a review of
last year's citations, a significant number could have been referred to
municipal court rather than the district attorney's office where heavy
caseloads often result in delays. Mikulec said nearly $25,000 could be
saved annually if uniform guidelines are implemented.
"Not only is this beneficial in tight times, but it provides a strong
working tool for law enforcement and criminal prosecutors while ensuring
the equitable treatment of defendants," Mikulec said.
Other local law enforcement officials participating on the project
also see the benefits of the collaborative effort.
"The Milwaukee Police Department fully endorses the new guidelines
and I believe they will help to ensure equitable prosecution throughout
Milwaukee County," said Milwaukee Police Chief Arthur L. Jones.
Fox Point Police Chief Thomas Czaja, President of the Milwaukee
County Law Enforcement Association, indicated that while law enforcement
will reduce overhead, municipal courts may see an increase in
forfeitures. He emphasized that all charges are subject to discretion,
and will be handled on a case-by-case basis. "If implemented
consistently," he said, "the guidelines will not only increase fairness
in how defendants are charged, but also serve to reduce officer
overtime. It will triage criminal cases referring only the most serious
to the district attorney."
Patricia Gorence, a U.S. District Court magistrate judge, and Carl
Ashley, a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge, spearheaded the project
funded by a Public Trust and Confidence in the Justice System grant.
Both judges received distinguished service awards from the Milwaukee Bar
on June 26.
Ashley remarked, "Everyone understands that the guidelines are just
that--a guide. However, there was clear agreement that people in
Milwaukee County should be treated similarly regarding like offenses. I
believe that the guidelines will attempt to do just that."
For more information on guideline content, call Carl Ashley (414)
278-4086 or Patricia Gorence (414) 297-4165.
The State Bar of Wisconsin is the mandatory professional association,
created by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, for attorneys who hold a law
license in Wisconsin. With more than 20,000 members, the State Bar aids
the courts in improving the administration of justice, provides
continuing legal education for its members to help them maintain their
expertise, and assists Wisconsin lawyers in carrying out community
service initiatives to educate the public about the legal system and the
value of lawyers.