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Wisconsin ‘John Doe’ prosecutorial abuses will go unpunished, but they should be remembered

Wisconsin ‘John Doe’ prosecutorial abuses will go unpunished, but they should be remembered

“Prosecutors today are not just above the law, they are the law. … We cannot have a free society when prosecutors across the land can destroy people with impunity.”

The Wisconsin “John Doe” investigations into Scott Walker will likely fade from memories, particularly now that Walker is out of office.

That should not be the case. The John Doe investigations were some of the worst political abuses of prosecutorial powers ever to take place, and need to be remembered.

If you want the short version, listen to my September 2015 interview on The Todd Herman Show:

For more details, see our dozens of posts, including the October 2017 post, The rotting corpse of Wisconsin’s John Doe investigation still stinks:

You may recall the two John Doe investigations of Scott Walker, his supporters and almost the entire Wisconsin conservative movement. It was a nasty, vicious investigation which saw military-style raids in the middle of the night.

There was John Doe No. 1, investigating Scott Walker’s time as Milwaukee County Executive. They never came up with any wrongdoing by him.

Then there was John Doe No. 2, regarding Walker’s alleged unlawful collusion with conservative groups during the recall election. It is John Doe No. 2 that has generated litigation over several years. In the end, every court that ruled on the issue found that the entire prosecution legal theory was legally unfounded — that even if these conservative groups did what they were alleged to have done, it was constitutionally protected speech and not illegal.

Lives were ruined over an attempt to punish constitutionally protected speech by conservatives.

(note: Michael Lutz in this interview from late April 2015 committed suicide in late July).

The targets ultimately were vindicated in court, with the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling the investigation was an unlawful infringement of free speech and free association rights, 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.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the John Doe prosecutors attempt to overturn the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

In October 2015, Walker 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”.

There was an investigation of the abuses, which resulted a Wisconsin AG Report: Govt election officials were “on a mission to bring down the Walker campaign and the Governor himself”.

The question remained whether anyone would be held personally accountable. Unsurprisingly, the answer appears to be “No”.

Matt Kittle’s original reporting on the John Doe investigations was extensive and decisive.

Earlier this month, Kittle reported on what may be the end of the John Doe story, No One Held Accountable: Schimel’s Probe Into John Doe Quietly Concludes:

The state Department of Justice’s expanded investigation into the bureaucrats behind Wisconsin’s unconstitutional “John Doe II” probe has quietly ended more than a year after a bombshell report suggested a controversial state agency had been weaponized “by partisans in furtherance of political goals.” 

Whatever evidence DOJ investigators have uncovered is now sealed in a Brown County Court. Outgoing Attorney General Brad Schimel, it appears, will have no further bombshell reports to issue. 

“The DOJ investigation is closed, and all materials gathered or related to the investigation are now being filed with the John Doe Judge. It will be his decision on whether to take further action,” said Johnny Koremenos, spokesman for the Republican attorney general, whose term ends today. 

Under the John Doe secrecy order, the public doesn’t get to view the case documents. 

Neither does Schimel’s successor, Democrat Josh Kaul, a critic of Schimel’s investigation into the John Doe investigation and at least a tacit endorser of the original political probe into dozens of conservative organizations. That’s good news for conservatives concerned about what the liberal Kaul might do once he takes over the DOJ. 

But it appears the prosecutors and the government bureaucrats that made life hell for innocent citizens for so long will never be held accountable for their conduct, sources tell MacIver News Service. 

“It’s all over,” a source with knowledge of the case said. “Basically this (the status of the case) is no longer in a state of people being held accountable, people being punished.” …

With the quiet submission of the DOJ’s findings to the closed-door John Doe court, the full story may never be known. 

At the very least, the court is moving to finalize the disposition of the millions of documents and other materials seized in one of the darkest chapters in Wisconsin’s history. 

“The court is making sure that the materials are returned or destroyed so that no one can go back to try to re-victimize the people who are doing their best to try to put all of this behind them,” the source familiar with the case told MacIver News. An order of final disposition is expected to be issued later this year. 

Eric O’Keefe, one of the victims of the abuse who fought back in court, wrote recently:

What I’ve learned from years of studying and engaging in this John Doe fight is that America’s criminal justice system is broken. Wisconsin’s former John Doe law was not the main problem. The immense power of prosecutors, the judicially created immunity for prosecutors, are big parts of the problem. Another problem has been the accumulation of laws, which allow prosecutors ever more ways to investigate and overcharge anyone.

I have learned that we live in a nation ruled by men, not by laws.

My political work going forward will involve highlighting the destruction of lives that has become routine in our system, and pointing to some directions for reform.

Prosecutors today are not just above the law, they are the law. They decide who to destroy and who to spare. They view themselves as superior to legislators, voters, governors and presidents. We cannot have a free society when prosecutors across the land can destroy people with impunity. We can revive government by the people, or we can endure tyranny by prosecutors.

“John Doe” will eventually be forgotten.

The political abuse of prosecutorial powers must be remembered.


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notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital | January 30, 2019 at 8:42 pm

Civil lawsuits took OJ out of circulation……

It is perhaps time to make law enforcement personnel personally liable for the damage they do when they run amuck by going outside what the law allows.

That might make them think twice. Right now, they bask inside immunity. They have too much of it.

That no one in Wisconsin is going to jail is absurd. You should list some of what they did. Mind blowing.

It makes what stupid Mueller did to Stone look like a walk in the park.

The process is the punishment.

I don’t have the words to express my anger and dismay, my concern for the future of this country..

Sounds like a prototype for the Mueller investigation.

Guaranteed that the feds could easily find federal law violations but this took place under the Obama feds who encouraged such abuses.

And, unfortunately, we do not have any Trump feds. The Obama feds are still in control.

    Edward in reply to JOHN B. | January 31, 2019 at 6:53 am

    Except this was solely a Wisconsin state issue. The only Federal involvement (IIRC) was the Federal District Judge who was one of the Judges (State and Federal) stopped this effort to criminalize political speech and the SCOTUS which refused to take up an appeal from the ruling of the WI Supreme Court stopping the “investigation”.

      Edward in reply to Edward. | January 31, 2019 at 7:11 am

      There possibly were violations of 18 USC 241 Conspiracy Against Rights, or 18 USC 242 Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law. The civil remedy 42 USC 1983, Civil Action for Deprivation of Rights, isn’t available due to the protection of prosecutors and I don’t know if that protection in any way impacts applicability of 241 and 242 to state prosecutors.

      241 and 242 are rarely used with the most use having been against police officers and racially based civil rights issues.

    MattMusson in reply to JOHN B. | January 31, 2019 at 9:57 am

    “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”
    The Romans asked this 2000 years ago.
    “Who guards the guards?”

I am 10x more mad at the pathetic weakling Republicans than I am about the actual investigations.

Democrats blatantly violated the law and conducted sham ‘investigations’ worthy of the Gestapo, investigating things that WEREN’T EVEN CRIMES.

What have Republicans done about it? Nothing.

Laws mean nothing unless Republicans sack the fuck up and hold Democrat thugs accountable.

“Did you really think we want those laws observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them to be broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against… We’re after power and we mean it… There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system, Mr. Reardon, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”

    snopercod in reply to Wisewerds. | January 31, 2019 at 8:14 am

    By coincidence, I watched Atlas Shrugged Part 2 on Amazon Prime last night. They severely edited that quote but the meaning was still there.

This would have been a perfect vase for a legit US Attorney General to sink his teeth into some democrat nonsense but alas, we haven’t gotten one…

This one is ugly. If there is a high road for a response, I don’t see it.

Yet another leftist crime goes unpunished, either at law or in the public forum.

Right, McConnell, you corrupt, useless POS?

What does it take to get a Lawyer disbarred these days? For the love of Pete.

The left sees you as their enemy, don’t be fool and try to convince yourself otherwise. Act accordingly.

In societies where the justice system fails to provide justice, vigilantism will eventually fill the void. Beware sowing the whirlwind progs, beware.

Familiar scenario: Libs persecute under protection of qualified immunity and Conservative wring their hands and whimper!

casualobserver | January 31, 2019 at 11:28 am

It’s getting harder and harder to maintain a net positive view of the legal profession and especially is intersection with politics. A cynic would say that as long as you have political power and a law degree, there is almost no limit to how far outside of the law you can operate. And by “have political power”, one might say you only need to be connected to it.

PersonofInterests | February 1, 2019 at 8:03 am

“Prosecutors today are not just above the law, they are the law. … We cannot have a free society when prosecutors across the land can destroy people with impunity.”

And Special Counsels, Deputy Attorney Generals, and all the others who use coercion to squeeze out baseless plea deals and admissions of guild because the legal costs and defaming that result from having to defend prosecutorial misconduct and wrong doing is actually punishment without any justice. Legal costs have become a weapon for abuse.

Also, the loser in a lawsuit ought to pay the legal and court costs of the winner; that ought to make those who bring frivolous lawsuits and those practicing Prosecutorial Misconduct think twice.