MARINETTE — With a staff of three full-time attorneys, the Marinette County District Attorney’s Office made major progress in the latter part of 2018 in reducing a backlog of cases that once exceeded 400, the county board’s Public Services Committee was told Tuesday.

“We were able to take a real significant step in reducing our backlog,” District Attorney DeShea Morrow told the committee. “In the last two months we’ve really seen that go down.

“We’re close to the 350 range which is really good, considering we were in the high 400s. I’m really happy to see that happening. Everybody is really working hard on that.”

She said the most notable event in her office in 2018 was being able to hire a second full-time assistant DA due to funds approved by the state Legislature. Tessa Button, a recent graduate of the Marquette University Law School, joined the office last May 29 to fill the second assistant DA position that previously was part time. Morrow hired Cody Marschall in 2017 to fill the full-time assistant DA position that she formally held.

“Since then we were able to file a noticeably greater amount of cases,” Morrow said. “Our felonies went from 233 filings in 2017 to 255 in 2018. 

“Misdemeanors went up from 99 to 115. Criminal traffic (filings) were at 181 compared to 222 in 2017. I think the reason for that is we had a lot more felonies like drunk driving —fourth offenses that are now felonies. We’re now dealing with a lot more of felony drunk driving charges.”

Morrow said the biggest caseload jump in her office was juvenile delinquencies with 51 compared to 32 the year before. She also noted that CHIPS (Child in Need of Protection Services) cases rose from 32 to 45.

“When you’re dealing with a lot of juveniles in secure detention there is a lot of transporting and time that is involved,” she said. “CHIPS cases involve a lot of people because you’re dealing with moms and dads, then foster parents sometimes and attorneys. There is a lot of court time spent on that.”

She said “overall I’m really pleased with the progress that my two assistant ADAs are making.”

“I think we were able to get some good work done last year,” Morrow said. “That wouldn’t happen without the work from law enforcement that comes in our door every day.”

She noted that she represents the DA’s office on the Drug Court and Marschall represents the office on the Mental Health Court.

“I think the Drug Court has gone well, it’s certainly has had its ups and downs,” Morrow said. “I think by and large it’s been a really good thing for the community.”

She noted that some Drug Court participants have given back to the community by participating in community events and after graduating some of them have sponsored current participants.

Morrow said the Mental Health Court, which debuted last October, “is getting its feet under it and making strides.”

She said that last fall her office hosted law enforcement training with agencies throughout Marinette County participating.

“I think it was very good for the district attorney’s office and our local law enforcement agencies to get together and talk about issues that we’re seeing so that we can do our individual jobs better,” Morrow said.

Also at Tuesday’ meeting:

¦ Jail Administrator Bob Majewski reported that the population of the 165-bed capacity jail was steady in 2018 with an average of about 120 inmates.

“That’s exactly the same number as 2017,” he said. “Although it was split different. We were a lot more stable this year (throughout the year).”

“This morning (Tuesday) there were 122 in the jail with 10 coming and going on Huber (privileges),” Sheriff Jerry Sauve said. “Twelve are on Soberlink and four on electronic monitoring. That would be 16 more than what we would have on top of 122 (in the jail).

“There are four participants in the Mental Health Court and nearly 20 in the Drug Court. Some of those would be occupying bed space either here or at state institutions (if not for those programs).”

Majewski reporting that he is again facing issues with staffing the jail, noting that he is short one corrections officer at present.

“We need to finish the hiring process for that one position and start the training,” he said. “We still have one on extended leave and we have one soon to be resigning and one to be retiring soon after that. So we’re going to have to be hiring and training three more (corrections officers).

“The jail is going to be accepting resumes and applications for corrections officers. Interested persons should contact Human Services.”

Sauve reported that three persons have been selected to fill three deputy positions and are now in the process of getting drug screens and physicals.

¦ Marinette County’s first medical examiner — Kalynn Van Ermen — was introduced to the committee. She was County Administrator John Lefebvre’s choice for the position and was approved for the post by the county board of Dec. 18.

“I was born and raised in Coleman,” said Van Ermen, who assumed the position this month. “I started working in the medical examiner’s office in Brown County and was the lead investigator and office manager for eight years. I serve on the Wisconsin Coroners and Medical Examiners Association Board of Directors.”

The county board voted last year to establish a medical examiner position when the current term of longtime Coroner George Smith ended this January.