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DA honored by two state organizations

Mike Heine/The Week

(Published June 20, 2007, 1:28 p.m.)

Walworth County District Attorney Phil Koss gets to add a few lines to his résumé.

Koss was recently named E. Michael McCann Prosecutor of the Year by the Wisconsin District Attorney's Association and was honored as the Professional of the Year by the Wisconsin Victim/Witness Service Providers Professional Organization.

The awards came as a result of nomination letters sent by his colleagues in law enforcement, victims of crimes he has represented, fellow prosecutors and his office's victim-witness coordinators.

Koss, a prosecutor in Walworth County since 1985, said he takes great pride in upholding the law according to state statutes. But he also keeps in touch with the reality of the sometimes terrible situations.

"I try and remember it's real life," he says. "It's easy to say you treat someone with respect and dignity. We're seeing people at their worst. The worst situation has just happened to them. They don't understand what's happened to them and they don't understand the criminal justice system.

"They could be dealing with the loss of a loved one and they still have to deal with the legal system. I try and remember that people need extra attention or extra time during the process here. I try and take that into account."

Both awards are given for accomplishments achieved over a career or period of time and are not based on the handling of a single case.

Koss has been instrumental in creating the multi-jurisdictional Sexual Assault Response Team in Walworth County and is the co-chair for the Walworth County Children's Court Advisory Board, a group dedicated to keeping children free from violence, abuse and neglect, according to letters of recommendation from colleagues.

He also teaches courses at the UW-Madison Law School and gives community education courses about keeping kids safe when they're using the Internet.

Evelyn Schulz, one of the district attorney's office's two victim-witness coordinators, said Koss gets to know the victims of crimes and always listens to them.

"I think sometimes he can get emotional, especially in some of the difficult cases like homicides or sexual assaults of children," Schulz said. "You do have to detach in order to do the job professionally, but he is a human being and treats victims very well."

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