From Court to Court

Karie Cattanach is still sinking threes as Dane County assistant D.A.

Published in 2007 Wisconsin Super Lawyers magazine

By Jim Walsh on November 16, 2007


“Shooting the three is an art form. It’s an elation. It brings a smile to my face. If it’s going in, I can feel myself going, ‘Yep, that one’s good.’ And when you’re in the zone, you could take it from half-court and you know it’s going in.”

That’s Karie Davenport Cattanach, 33, assistant district attorney for Dane County, talking about the passion that has been at the center of her life since she was a girl: basketball.

“My dad was a basketball coach,” she says, “so he helped me practice hours and hours of developing my shot.” The hard work paid off. Cattanach was a four-year letter winner for the Wisconsin Badgers women’s basketball team from 1994 to 1997. She set the team’s career three-point shooting percentage record (37 percent) and tied the record for most three-pointers in a game (6). She was a starter on two NCAA tournament-qualifying teams, and an academic All-Big Ten selection from 1994 to 1996.

Now the Badgers women’s basketball color analyst for WPT, Cattanach has been an assistant district attorney since her graduation from the UW–Madison Law School in 1999. The correlation between her two loves—law and hoops—isn’t lost on her.

“It’s hard work, determination, effort,” says Cattanach, who is also a volunteer for the Special Olympics and is a part of Dane County’s Big Brothers and Sisters Program. “You’ve got to go in every day prepared. Ready to go, with a game face. I’m in a court every single day. So I’m facing defendants, defense attorneys, and if I’m not prepared and I haven’t done the practice that I need to get there, it’s going to be a bad day.

“College-level basketball is not for the meek or mild, and it’s the same with this. You have to go in with a tenacity and an aggressiveness.

“Waiting for a verdict is like taking the last-second three-pointer to win the game. But then you have to wait anywhere from a half hour to two days to know if you made the shot. That’s what I’ve found the hardest: When I shoot the three, I have instant gratification. And when you’re waiting for the verdict, you can second-guess the trial in the same way you second-guess a game. Then when that ‘Guilty’ comes back it’s like nailing that three.”

Cattanach can recall her most satisfying hard-court victory (lighting up Penn State at the Barn in Madison) as well as her most satisfying law court victory:

“April of this year, there was a reckless homicide case. There was a drug dealer who delivered drugs to a girl who prostituted herself for them, then he left her to die. Getting that guilty verdict was amazing. I had two guys who beat another guy with a baseball bat, and when that verdict came back, again, it felt like that last-second three.”

Cattanach never considered turning professional, since she was already on track to become a lawyer. Still, the fire burns. Up until last year, Cattanach was playing pick-up and rec-league basketball three or four times a week. She got married in May and took a new position in her unit last year, which makes for a new rhythm to her life. Does her husband play ball?

“Not well, but he can set a mean pick. So I like him: Get me open, hon.”

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