MADISON, Wis. (CN) — A longtime prosecutor claims that -- after he accepted his district attorney’s challenge to run against him, and lost in the primary -- the DA loaded him up with 31 jury trials in two months, intentionally undermining him and forcing him to resign.
Bob Jambois was district attorney in Kenosha County, Wisconsin, from 1989 until 2005, he says in his Feb. 28 federal complaint.
In 2015, at the invitation of a assistant district attorney in Dane County, Jambois says, he applied for a job as an assistant DA under District Attorney Ismael Ozanne. Ozanne interviewed him, offered him a job, and he accepted and began work in May 2015, Jambois says.
Kenosha County, pop. 168,000, is south of Milwaukee. The seat of Dane County, pop. 510,000, is Madison, the state capital.
Upon arriving, Jambois says, he found “significant discontent amongst his colleagues over Ozanne’s leadership and management style.”
So great was the discontent, according to the complaint, that at a staff meeting in May 2016, when “Ozanne aired grievances against the attorneys” who worked for him, “some attorneys articulated general dissatisfaction with the Dane County District Attorney’s office.”
The complaint continues: “In response to the dissatisfaction of the staff, Ozanne encouraged the dissatisfied to run for the position of Dane County District Attorney if they believed they could direct the office better than he could.
“Jambois took Ozanne up on this offer.”
Ozanne whipped him in the Aug. 9 primary, Jambois says, and then directed three assistant DAs “to initiate a campaign of retaliation and harassment of Jambois.” The trio, Corey Stephan, Matt Moeser and Mary Ellen Karst, are each named as defendants along with Ozanne.
Jambois says Ozanne called a meeting on Aug. 26, “ostensibly concerning Jambois’ trial schedule,” but asked him to resign. When Jambois refused, Ozanne allegedly handed him a “notice of investigatory review.” Stephan and Moeser investigated him, and on Sept. 8 he was given another letter with “nearly identical complaints” to the first one, and demanding he follow procedures “required of no one else in the office,” according to the complaint.
Then came the killer. Jambois says Karst approached Shaun O’Connell, another nonparty assistant DA, “and requested that O’Connell identify his most difficult and complicated cases.”
“O’Connell identified the twenty (20) most difficult cases in his caseload for Karst," the complaint states. "Under the direction of Ozanne and/or Karst, all of these cases were subsequently shifted onto Jambois’ caseload. By shifting these cases, Ozanne made it impossible for Jambois to comply with the standards mandated by the aforementioned disciplinary letters.”
With the new cases, Jambois found himself facing 31 jury trials in two months, “a crushing caseload … without parallel in the Dane County District Attorney’s Office under Ozanne.”
Under these conditions, Jambois says, he was forced to resign, which he did in September.
Ozanne told the Wisconsin State Journal on Wednesday that he hadn’t seen the lawsuit yet, "so I wouldn't have a response at this point. But you can say I don't believe we did anything wrong.”
Jambois seeks punitive damages for retaliation and violations of the First Amendment.
He is represented by Robert Gingras, with Gingras, Kates & Luebke, in Madison.
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.