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Koss declares candidacy for judge seat

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Kevin Hoffman
November 25, 2011
— Walworth County District Attorney Phillip Koss announced Wednesday he will run for circuit court judge in the spring, potentially vacating a position he's held for the last two decades.

Koss will challenge for the Branch I Circuit Court seat, currently held by Judge Robert Kennedy. Kennedy said he does not intend to run for another term, and he threw his support behind the county's longtime district attorney.


"I've been thinking about this for awhile, since Judge Kennedy said he might not run," said Koss, who has been the county's top prosecutor for 21 years. "I love what I do. I tried very hard to be a public servant, in the meaning of the word, and do what I think is right."


Koss said he wouldn't be running if Kennedy was pursuing another term.


Aside from being among the county's most experienced attorneys, Koss could be considered the busiest. He teaches at the University of Wisconsin Law School, is chairman of the Walworth County Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee and is president of the Walworth County Alliance for Children.


The Wisconsin District Attorney's Association in 2007 honored him as Prosecutor of the Year.


Koss said if elected, he would continue to teach but might have to scale back his involvement with other groups.


Walworth County Sheriff David Graves is among a group of people to already voice their support for Koss. Graves said he supports Koss' decision but acknowledged it would be tough to fill his void in the district attorney's office.


"We'll miss him, that's for sure, but I think he'd make an excellent judge based on his qualifications and experience," Graves said. "I know the (district attorney's) office supports him in his new quest, but at the same time, we'll miss him."


Koss' shift to circuit court judge would clear the way for a new district attorney. He has held that position since 1990.


Koss' term is up next fall. Gov. Scott Walker would appoint someone to hold that position until a new prosecutor is elected.


Deputy District Attorney Josh Grube expressed interest in running, Koss said, however he must establish residency in Walworth County.


If Koss wins the race for judge, he would take office in August.


He said he likely would begin his new role by handling family and civil court cases. He would not be allowed to preside over cases filed while he was district attorney.


Koss said no matter the result this spring, he can't complain.


"I don't want to jinx myself," Koss said, "but the worst that happens is I still have a great job."



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