Health Care / Medicine, Lawyer of the Day, Politics, Romance and Dating, Sexual Harassment

The Sexting District Attorney: Ken Kratz to Resign as DA, But He’ll Always Be ‘The Prize’

Guess we won’t have Kenneth Kratz to kick around anymore. Kratz, aka the Sexting District Attorney, will soon step down as DA of Calumet County, Wisconsin. According to his attorney, Kratz’s resignation will take place before October 8, the date set for his removal hearing. The news was reported on Tuesday by the Associated Press.

Losing his post as chief prosecutor will definitely cramp Kratz’s dating style. He’ll forfeit his high-profile job and its $105,000 salary. He’ll no longer be able to hit on women victims seeking help from his office by sending them text messages that read “Are you the kind of girl that likes secret contact with an older married elected DA?” and “I’m the atty. I have the $350,000 house. I have the 6-figure career. You may be the tall, young, hot nymph, but I am the prize!”

And no more romantic dates at the medical examiner’s, either.

On a more serious note, one aspect of Kratz’s conduct in particular merits special condemnation….

Over at Slate, Libby Copeland calls out Kratz for how he handled the scandal once it blew up:

Before he was essentially forced to resign, Kratz attempted to shift the language of his own transgression by painting himself as a victim just like [text message recipient Stephanie] Van Groll—a victim, that is, of his own mental illness. At first he refused requests to leave office, even hiring an attorney to protect his job. He apologized during a press conference for a “lack of judgment,” referred to troubles in his marriage, and described his behavior in terms of infidelity, rather than admitting that he had tried to take advantage of a vulnerable woman he was charged with protecting. Then he said he was seeking therapy. More recently, the prosecutor has reportedly been on indefinite medical leave and in some sort of treatment center, though his attorney won’t say precisely for what.

We’ve heard this one before. The cultural progression from morality to mental illness as a frame for bad behavior was discussed a good deal, for instance, in the wake of the Tiger Woods scandal. If, once upon a time, people thought of medical problems like epilepsy as evidence of demon spirits, the thinking goes, we may now be veering toward the opposite problem: viewing the whole spectrum of human behavior in terms of mental health. As Stephen Marche put it in Esquire earlier this summer, our culture is “extending the language of mental health into every conceivable aspect of human activity and blurring the line between what is sick and what is bad.” Considering this line-blurring, when are we as a society permitted to say that someone is actually an amoral jerk?

A good question. With respect to Kratz, Copeland makes a persuasive case that he really is just an amoral jerk. Read her full piece here.

Alas, Kratz isn’t the only embarrassed person who tries to invoke mental illness as an excuse for misconduct. Here at Above the Law, we regularly expose judges, lawyers and law students who engage in stupid and/or unethical and/or criminal behavior. We often don’t hear from the subjects of our coverage (even when we reach out to them for comment); but when we do, they often play the mental illness card, saying something along the lines of “You shouldn’t make fun of me. I suffer from [depression / bipolar disorder / other mental illness].”

Mental illness is most definitely a real phenomenon, and it ruins (and claims) many lives each year. But one does have to wonder when invocation of it as an excuse has gone too far.

If a subject of our coverage wants to claim mental illness as a defense, we’re happy to mention the claim, to provide readers with all sides to the story. But don’t expect us to kill an entire story simply because one of the parties involved claims to be mentally ill in some way or another.

Denizens of the legal profession are often risk-averse, boring people to begin with — and that’s before they get socialized into a profession that prizes caution and conformity. If a judge, lawyer or law student says or does something remotely interesting or entertaining, there’s a decent chance that he or she is mentally ill. After all, one of the signs of mental illness is an inability to confirm one’s conduct to societal norms.

If we excluded the mentally ill from these pages, we’d have very little to write about.

Blurring the Line Between Profligate and Predatory [Slate]
Attorney Says ‘Sexting’ Wis. Prosecutor to Resign [Associated Press via]

Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Kenneth Kratz

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