Former Calumet County Dist. Atty. Ken Kratz claims he's immune from a civil lawsuit
filed by a crime victim claiming sexual harassment because he was a public official at the time.
Kratz filed an answer Friday to the civil lawsuit filed in federal court by Stephanie Van Groll after last year's public disclosure of sexually suggestive text messages she received from Kratz in 2009.
Van Groll, 26, filed the civil lawsuit in October in Milwaukee's U.S. District Court. The civil complaint claims the series of text messages violated her constitutional rights to due process and equal protection.
In his answer, Kratz denies "allegations attempting to interpret or mischaracterize" the text messages
included in the complaint. All statements made by Kratz were privileged, it says.
The answer, drafted by Kratz's attorney, Rob Bellin, also denies responsibility for any injuries the woman suffered as a result of her communications with Kratz.
Bellin said Monday he doesn't think Van Groll's lawsuit has merit. Though Kratz's communications weren't appropriate, "it's certainly not a violation of someone's well- established civil rights," he said.
Kratz's answer claims absolute immunity and qualified immunity, which is a legal doctrine that shields government officials from being sued for a violation of a person's constitutional rights. Qualified immunity is available when conduct doesn't clearly violate rights a reasonable person would have known about.
Wisconsin's crime victims rights laws, which are referenced in the complaint, don't provide the basis for a federal claim, the answer says.
Van Groll's complaint says Kratz — by virtue of his position and training — knew domestic violence victims were particularly vulnerable to harm from unwelcome sexual advances. Kratz was chairman of the state's Crime Victims Rights Board until he resigned under pressure from the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
No court dates have been scheduled.