*Someone* leaked sealed documents to the press as U.S. Supreme Ct considers whether to take the case.
The saga of the two John Doe investigations of Scott Walker, his supporters and almost the entire Wisconsin conservative movement has been covered here dozens of times. It was a nasty, vicious investigation which saw military-style raids in the middle of the night.
(note: Michael Lutz in this interview from late April 2015 committed suicide in late July).
Here are some key posts in our extensive coverage of the John Doe investigation:
- Revealed: Wisconsin John Doe investigation was full-blown anti-conservative fishing expedition
- Exposed: How Prosecutors targeted Scott Walker and conservatives
- Was Prosecutor’s union-operative wife behind “John Doe” investigation of Scott Walker?
- Wisconsin “John Doe” War on Walker wins “Nastiest Political Tactic of the Year”
- Wisconsin Dems used battering rams against Scott Walker supporters – literally
- Former Scott Walker Aide Sues prosecutors for WI John Doe “Home Invasion”
An important chapter was turned when the Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered John Doe No. 2 investigation closed.
The Court found that the actions of which Wisconsin conservatives were accused (so-called “issue coordination”) did not violate the law as written, and if it was a violation, then the law was invalid as a violation of the constitutional protections of free speech and association,Wisconsin Supreme Court stops John Doe investigation against conservatives. Here is the key passage from the Court ruling (emphasis added):
¶133 Our lengthy discussion of these three cases can be distilled into a few simple, but important, points. It is utterly clear that the special prosecutor has employed theories of law that do not exist in order to investigate citizens who were wholly innocent of any wrongdoing. In other words, the special prosecutor was the instigator of a “perfect storm” of wrongs that was visited upon the innocent Unnamed Movants and those who dared to associate with them. It is fortunate, indeed, for every other citizen of this great State who is interested in the protection of fundamental liberties that the special prosecutor chose as his targets innocent citizens who had both the will and the means to fight the unlimited resources of an unjust prosecution. Further, these brave individuals played a crucial role in presenting this court with an opportunity to re-endorse its commitment to upholding the fundamental right of each and every citizen to engage in lawful political activity and to do so free from the fear of the tyrannical retribution of arbitrary or capricious governmental prosecution. Let one point be clear: our conclusion today ends this unconstitutional John Doe investigation.
Subsequently, in October 2015, Walker has signed legislative reforms to the law meant to avoid the type of politicized witch hunts that took place under the direction of Milwaukee County Prosecutor John Chisholm, Scott Walker signs law emasculating “John Doe”
If you thought it was over, you would be wrong. There are important developments.
Chisholm is not giving up the hunt, pursuing an attempt to get the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case and threatening prosecutions outside of the John Doe statute. M.D. Kittle of Wisconsin Watchdog, who is THE expert on the John Doe investigations, writes, John Chisholm, the Captain Ahab of prosecutors, wants another shot at John Doe:
Multiple courts have declared Wisconsin’s infamous John Doe investigation legally dead.
John Chisholm doesn’t care. He’s the Captain Ahab of prosecutors.
The Milwaukee County district attorney for nearly three years has obsessively attempted to resurrect his unconstitutional investigation into dozens of conservative groups and the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker.
Now, the Democrat tells the U.S. Supreme Court that he would immediately restart his intimidation game, using the millions of documents John Doe prosecutors illegally seized, if the high court overturns the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision definitively ending the probe….
“As to all Respondents, ending the John Doe proceedings does not end the investigation,” the prosecutors declare in their reply, a reference to legislative reforms to Wisconsin’s John Doe law. “Prosecutors may independently commence a criminal prosecution outside the John Doe proceeding.”
The U.S. Supreme could decide Oct. 3 whether to take the case. The date marks the third anniversary of the prosecutors’ coordinated predawn armed raids on the homes and offices of several conservatives.
If that were all there were too it, it would simply be legal self-flagellation. It’s highly unlikely the Supreme Court would take the case because the court does not normally hear disputes as to state law. Additionally, since the law has been changed, it’s questionable whether there is an actual case and controversy.
Putting aside the legalities, however, as the Supreme Court approaches its conference on whether to take the case, sealed court documents regarding Walker and other conservatives, obtained pursuant to the illegal raids, were leaked to The Guardian. The documents were analyzed under the hyperbolic headline: “Leaked court documents from ‘John Doe investigation’ in Wisconsin lay bare pervasive influence of corporate cash on modern US elections.”
In fact, there is very little surprising in The Guardian analysis. Politicians care about politics, include state Supreme Court elections. (You may remember the Prosser versus Kloppenburg election.) Wisconin media has hype the leak as well, Leaked John Doe documents paint fuller picture of case against Scott Walker campaign, but to no greater effect. All of the things of which Walker and conservatives were accused were not illegal and were constitutionally protected.
Nonetheless, it’s extremely important that the leak was a leak, and not a hack. That means that someone with access to the documents decide to commit a crime by leaking the documents.
Kittle suspects the obvious, Document suggests prosecutors leaked sealed John Doe records to Guardian:
A document released in a dump of sealed court records by British liberal publication the Guardian suggests prosecutors of Wisconsin’s infamous John Doe probe are behind the “leak.”…
One of the documents the Guardian obtained shows a copy of a Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce motion moving to quash a subpoena. WMC was one of the 29 conservative organizations targeted by Chisholm and his prosecutor partners.
The document clearly shows handwriting on it with key points underlined. Such note scribbling is not something one would find in a court filing. It is something that a prosecutor would have in his personal files, however.
John Doe prosecutors repeatedly warned the people they harassed and intimidated that they could go to jail and be subject to hefty fines if they went public with any information related to the probe. The law holds the same for prosecutors who “leak” information to the press.
Now the question is, will the courts hold the prosecutors accountable should it be determined they released the documents to the Guardian?
I reached out to the attorneys for the Wisconsin Club for Growth, one of the main targets of the John Doe probe, for comment. David Rivkin, attorney for Wisconsin Club for Growth provides this statement:
Given how many legally unsophisticated reporters have already been burned by misleading and selectively edited leaks from the John Doe investigation, it is surprising to me that any remain willing to take the bait. As the Wisconsin Supreme Court explained, the John Doe prosecutors made up crimes ‘that do not exist’ under Wisconsin law in order to target ‘citizens who were wholly innocent of any wrongdoing.’ Because the U.S. Supreme Court does not review matters of state law, it should be obvious that the John Doe prosecutors’ appeal is legally frivolous and just another publicity stunt intended to tarnish their targets’ reputations and salvage their own.
There needs to be an investigation of the investigators as to the leak, and it looks like that might happen, AG Schimel looking at investigation into leaked John Doe documents:
Assembly Republicans are asking Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate who violated a State Supreme Court order and leaked 1,382 pages of John Doe court documents to the The Guardian US newspaper, which published them along with a far-reaching story about the relationship between Gov. Scott Walker and Wisconsin Club for Growth Wednesday.
In July, the State Supreme Court shut down the John Doe investigation into alleged illegal campaign coordination between Republican officials and third-party conservative issue groups originally initiated by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office. In its decision, the justices ordered any documents from the case be placed under seal.
Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) and other top Republicans sent a letter to AG Schimel Thursday, stating: “The disclosure of this information appears to violate state statute and an order of the Wisconsin Supreme. Court. We believe this potential crime is of statewide nature, importance, and influence, and within your power to investigate. Should this potential crime go unprosecuted it runs the risk of undermining the integrity of our courts and judicial system.”
The Wisconsin Department of Justice issued a statement via Twitter minutes later.
“Re: John Doe doc leak- AG Schimel is very concerned about the apparent violation of the secrecy orders issued by the court in this case. Currently reviewing available options to address serious legal questions raised by the leak and publication of these sealed documents,” reads the tweet.
The entire investigation has been a travesty of justice. People need to be held accountable.DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.