Former Wisconsin district attorney publicly reprimanded

A former Wisconsin District Attorney has been publicly reprimanded by the Office of Lawyer Regulation, after a FOX 9 investigation into his conduct.

The FOX 9 Investigators found Burnett County District Attorney Bill Norine had a pattern of asking out women who appeared in his courtroom.

In issuing its public reprimand, the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR), a division of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, found, “Norine, while serving as the District Attorney for Burnett County, communicated via Facebook to multiple women who had pending criminal cases in Burnett County. In these communications, Norine sought lunch, dinner or drink dates, used personal endearments and made improper inducements.”

Holly Phillips is the latest to come forward.

“I’m 34 and he is 65. That’s a pretty big age difference,” Phillips told the FOX 9 Investigators.

Phillips had three traffic cases with Norine as prosecutor, as well as a pending child neglect case with the county, when he contacted her through Facebook.

“He’s offering to help me get my daughter back, but he didn’t do anything,” said Phillips.

Phillips showed the FOX 9 Investigators a dozen messages on Facebook from Norine, asking if she wanted to “Spend the night?” and “If they could live together as boyfriend/girlfriend?”

He sent her a Valentine’s Day card last year and helped her out with gas money.

“This is when I started getting the impression he takes advantage of economically vulnerable women,” said Phillips.

In a phone interview, Norine told the FOX 9 Investigators nothing sexual happened between him and Phillips. He said he is still receiving text messages from her and providing her with legal advice in the child protection case. 

“I was trying to help her,” said Norine. “We had very extensive communication back and forth and most of it initiated with her.” 

Asked about the text messages suggesting she spend the night or live together as boyfriend/girlfriend, Norine said, “My memory doesn’t serve me on that.”

Norine resigned as district attorney in September. The public reprimand does not prevent Norine from practicing law.

The OLR found Norine violated three separate statutes concerning lawyers and conflict of interest. The OLR said Norine would use personal endearments with the women such as “babe, lovely, or beautiful,” and would pay personal expenses and offer legal advice.

In September, the FOX 9 Investigators reported on six women who said Norine contacted them through Facebook to ask them out on dates. The women were facing charges ranging from drug possession to writing bad checks. One woman had an ex-husband charged with domestic violence. Another woman got a Facebook friend request from Norine within 45 minutes of sitting across from him in the courtroom.

One of those women, Ang Johnson, had a pending child protection case. Norine offered to buy her dinner and “compare notes.” 

In another case, Norine became Facebook friends with a woman who had a pending criminal case, telling her she was a “wonderful beautiful person” who inspired him. Norine offered to pay her phone bill if she “had time to meet.”

After initially denying the accusations in September, Norine did not contest the discipline from the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR).