Clark County awaiting new district attorney appointment
The Clark County prosecutor’s office has been operating at half-capacity for the past three weeks following the resignation of district attorney Kerra Stumbris.
It’s up to Gov. Tony Evers to choose a replacement, which could happen by the end of November, but in the meantime, the remaining staff is working to keep up with a robust caseload.
Stumbris submitted her resignation in late September from the four-year position to which she was elected by Clark County voters in November 2016. She has taken a new position in another county and her last day in the Clark County office was Oct. 25.
Her departure leaves assistant DA Holly Wood Webster as the lone prosecutor to handle the county’s entire caseload of criminal and traffic cases. That load is substantial; as of late last week, the office had 455 active cases and another 30 or so awaiting review for possible charges.
Wood Webster said the county technically has no district attorney at this time, and she is handling all cases. Part of the county corporation counsel’s job description is to help with DA office needs, but that position was just recently filled and the new attorney, Phil Nesbitt, is not experienced in prosecution.
Wood Webster said for the time being she has to pick up all of the cases Stumbris was working, plus the ones she would normally handle. So far she has been able to continue the cases that have scheduled court dates, but the lack of manpower has translated into some delays in reviewing new cases for possible charges.
“It’s certainly slowed me down a little bit,” Wood Webster said last week. “The review of cases has certainly slowed down.”
To complicate matters, Wood Webster said her office has seen a surge in new cases in the last few weeks. The Monday morning after Stumbris left, for example, police in Neillsville brought her a new case involving a stabbing/attempted first-degree homicide of two people.
The DA staff was already working at slightly less than recommended staffing levels as it was. A 2015-17 workload analysis for the state’s district attorneys’ office showed the county has a need for 2.21 positions to meet its caseload. The county Board of Supervisors passed a resolution asking the state Legislature to commit more funds for increased DA office staffing. The state pays the salaries of district attorneys, even though they are elected at the county level.
The governor’s office issued a call on Sept. 29 for applicants to replace Stumbris. The deadline for applications was Oct. 14 and Wood Webster said the process has been moving along.
“I know the governor has done a first round of interviews,” she said. “They usually do a second round before naming a replacement. I’m expecting one by the end of the month.”
Whomever is named as the new district attorney will serve for the remainder of Stumbris’ term, which ends in January 2021. The position is up for election for a new 4-year term in November 2020.
Wood Webster has been the assistant DA in the county since January 2017.