GOVERNMENT CENTER—In recent weeks, it was reported Burnett County may be one of 18 counties given the go-ahead to hire an assistant district attorney. 

At a recent Public Safety meeting, District Attorney Bill Norine touched on recent conversations between himself and State Senator Sheila Harsdorf regarding the bill that would make this possible. Norine expressed excitement for the bill; however, it will not be until 2019 that anything further will be known. If passed, the legislation will give Norine “complete authority to hire” an assistant in January 2019. 

Why not sooner? While no definite answer is known, many suspect the 2019 date is due to hopeful senators not wanting to rush this bill, but rather allow it to gather support and a comfortable spot in a future state budget.

Last Friday marked Norine’s ninth year in the position. 

“It shouldn’t be a one-man show anywhere,” Norine said. 

In the past six months, approximately 750 criminal cases have been filed in the county, including nearly 200 felonies. These numbers do not reflect the number of prosecutions; however, they reflect the caseload Norine and the “quarter-time” assistant District Attorney Dan Steffen are dealing with. 

Burnett County Victim Witness Coordinator Darlene Treague said, “I think it has been a long overdue recognition to Burnett County that we need more prosecutorial help.” 

She added, “I don’t think many individuals who fortunately never have to deal with court matters realize the frustrations and demanding work of law enforcement, the District Attorney’s Office, Department of Health and Human Services, and then through the Circuit Court.”

Norine mentioned this bill will help “distressed counties” lighten the load on stretched-thin district attorneys.