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Kathleen B. Stilling
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Avvo Rating | 10.0 Superb Top Attorney Criminal Defense    Rated By Super Lawyers Kathleen B. Stilling. | SuperLawyers.com

Kathleen B. Stilling is a partner in the Brookfield law firm of Buting, Williams & Stilling, S.C.  She returned to the firm in 2011 after serving her term as a Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge, where her legal knowledge and professionalism were widely recognized. As a judge, Attorney Stilling presided over criminal jury trials, motion hearings, sentencing hearings and post-conviction cases.

She received her undergraduate degree and her law degree from the University of Wisconsin.  She is a founding member and past president of the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and Association for Women Lawyers.

Attorney Stilling was an Assistant State Public Defender in the Milwaukee trial office from 1981 – 1989 and her present private practice is entirely criminal defense, both trials and appeals.  She defends adult and juvenile clients in cases involving sexual offenses, drugs, alcohol and domestic violence.  She lectures in the areas of sexual assault cases, ethics and trial practice.  Her first article published in The Champion, 2015, has become a popular primer on defense of child sex cases.  Her follow-up article, co-authored with Attorney Jerome Buting, was published in The Champion, 2016. WISN radio host Mark Belling called her the “Go-to lawyer in the state of Wisconsin” for child sex cases. (air date: July 12, 2010).

Areas of Practice

  • Criminal Law
  • Homicides and Violent Crimes
  • Sex Offenses
  • Drug Offenses
  • Child Pornography
  • Internet Sex Crimes
  • Juvenile Offenses
  • Appeals
  • Wrongful Convictions
  • False Confessions and Illegal Searches
  • DNA & Computer Evidence
  • Domestic Violence
  • Drunk Driving

Bar Admissions

  • Wisconsin, 1981
  • U.S. District Court Eastern District of Wisconsin, 1993
  • U.S. District Court Western District of Wisconsin, 1981


  • University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin
    • Doctor of Jurisprudence – 1981
  • University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin
    • B.A., Bachelor of Arts – 1978

Published Works

  • “Motion Practice in a Child Sex Case”, The Champion, 2016
  • “Conquer Your Fear: Taking on a Child Sex Case”, The Champion, 2015
  • “The Castle Doctrine Changes the Rules for Teen Pranks”, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 11, 2012
  • “Developing the Defense in Child Sexual Assault Cases”, Wisconsin Defender, 2008


  • Frequent lecturer on the defense of Child Sexual Assault
  • 2008 Annual Wisconsin State Public Defender Program
  • 2009 National Association Criminal Defense Lawyers Spring Meeting and Seminar
  • 2012 Alaska Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, “Handling Child Sex Abuse Cases” and “The Judge Talk – A View from the Bench for Defense Lawyers”
  • 2012 National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Annual Meeting, “Voir Dire in Child Sex Cases”
  • 2012 Annual State Public Defender Conference, “Ethical Issues in Plea Negotiations”
  • 2011 Annual State Public Defender Conference, “Effective Advocacy: What Are Judges Really Thinking?”
  • Community Presentations: 2009-2013 “Teen Sex and the Justice System”, 2011 “Alcohol Policy in Wisconsin” and Wisconsin’s New Drunk Driving Law”, 2010-2011 “How Judges Make Sentencing Decisions”, 2012 “Defending the Accused – Taking Apart the State’s Case”
  • 2013 National Association Criminal Defense Lawyers Fall Conference, “Defending the Unthinkable: Zealous Advocacy in Sexual Assault and Child Victim Cases.”
  • 2015 Wisconsin Association Criminal Defense Lawyers, “Zealous Advocacy in Sex Crimes.”
  • 2015 Wisconsin Public Defender Investigation Conference, “Interviewing Children”
  • 2017 New Mexico Public Defender Conference, “Cross-Examining Children”

Honors and Awards

  • 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 Leading Lawyers Highest-Ranked Attorneys by M: Milwaukee’s Lifestyle Magazine
  • Designated as Super Lawyer in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2019
  • Recipient of the 2016 William Coffey Memorial Award by the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. This award recognizes “Exceptional Contributions to Professionalism in the Field of Criminal Justice.”

Professional Associations and Memberships

  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Member 1995 to present, Co-Chair CLE Committee on Sex Crimes
  • Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Member 1985 to present, President 1993-1994, 1994
  • Association for Women Lawyers, 1989 to Present
  • Waukesha County Bar Association, 1995 to Present
  • Judicial Council Criminal Procedure Committee (ad hoc member), 2012 to present

Past Employment Positions

  • Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge , 2010 to 2011
Practice Areas

“I just want to say thank you for the outstanding work you have done for him and let you know how much we appreciate the time and attention you gave to his case. We are obviously overjoyed by today’s dismissal!” (Child pornography case dismissed after motion to suppress was granted)”

“After having had time to exhale, we thank each one of you and all the others who contributed to the exemplary Supreme Court presentation. We are proud of your efforts on our behalf and, equally important, on behalf of the many present and future defendants statewide.” (Client’s comment after Supreme Court oral argument)

“Thank you. Thank you. I am so pleased to hear that we won. It doesn’t seem that it was even a close call. I appreciate your efforts.” (Oconto County defendant after Buting, Williams & Stilling got his prison sentence overturned in the court of appeals) ”

“Your time and advice was appreciated more than words can express at a time when we really needed someone to guide us.” (Client)

“The outcome was amazing, one unavailable even under identical circumstances in probably 98 percent of federal courtrooms around the country. Separate and apart from the outcome, though, I am supremely impressed by your efforts on your client’s behalf. Your comments in support of the requested sentence were perfect in tone and, having now reviewed the extensive sentencing memorandum you filed, your work in that regard was exemplary as well. Your client was certainly fortunate to have you as his attorney.” (Local federal court attorney present at a sentencing)

“I can’t thank you enough, not only for all of the tireless work that you and your staff put into my case, but for telling me what I needed to hear, at a time when I absolutely had to hear it. I consider myself blessed for everything turning out the way it did, especially since I blindly picked you out of a phone book! You helped me, my family and friends in many more ways than the money ever could.” (Child pornography client)

“I think you will find that in any circles where Kathy’s name is raised, people will always respond positively and identify her as an extremely hardworking, knowledgeable and ethical lawyer who is timely and effective with any endeavor she takes on. These circles would include colleagues, friends, prosecutors, judges, professors and others who have crossed paths with Kathy. They would also include the many lawyers like me who have referred numerous cases to Kathy, invariably with positive feedback from the clients regarding her knowledge of their case, empathy, professionalism and fair-mindedness in addressing their concerns.” (Fellow attorney)

“Thank you for giving [our son] back to us. Wonderful work!” (Family of client accused of armed robbery after charges were dismissed)

“Yes, His perfect time and perfect place, you were a part of this plan. I almost didn’t hire you, but I took a step of faith trusting Him and look what happened? Praise God. Our Lord put you in your vocation for a reason, continue to help those He brings your way. May He bless you in ALL you do!” (Client who was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault in a northwestern Wisconsin county. He was released from prison after attorneys got his conviction reversed.)

“I really cannot thank you enough for your past help. You really know your stuff. It is actually funny when I think about my other past attorney’s knowledge and then when I talk with you. It’s like night and day. You’re like a walking book of knowledge with a purpose-driven life. Thanks.” (Brown County client of attorney Buting)

“A year later and I still believe your defense is the single best example of lawyering I have ever seen.” (Television reporter commenting on attorney Buting’s defense of Steven Avery)

“You have a certain brilliance that makes me sure that when you talk, it is good information and I am in good hands. You tell it to me like it is even when the things you say are not always the things that I would like to hear. You keep it REAL!!!” (Brown County client)

“Thank you, thank you, thank you! I feel like this was one of the biggest blessings that happened in my life. I put this along with my children being born healthy and when I survived that horrific shooting. I appreciate everything you have done for me. I couldn’t ask for better lawyers. I want to say thank you to everybody at your firm. I owe you more than the fee you so rightfully deserve. … You gave me back hope. Thank you, man! Out of my 36 years … I have never seen such kindness before. I don’t know what I did to deserve this; I’m very thankful nonetheless. Thank you for giving me hope again. Thank you for your generosity. There are still some really good people around.” (Federal criminal appeal client)

“There is no other attorney I’ve ever even heard of I’d rather have as chief counsel and leader of my defense/appeals than Jerome Buting. You’re the best. Period.” (Dane County client)

“Your advice and counsel were greatly appreciated. We appreciate you taking the time on your Sunday and evenings to help us. We are SO happy about the results! Thanks again.” (Waukesha County client)

“Thank you again … for everything. Five and one-half years of commitment, so many ups and downs and an outcome like that. You did a GREAT job.” (Waukesha County felony drug offense client)