Scott Walker

Wisconsin Supreme Court Shuts Down Political 'John Doe' Investigations of Conservatives, Scott Walker

Rules no laws had been violated.

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When "chilling effects" backfire magnificently.
Credit: WisPolitics.com / photo on flickr

The remarkably creepy case where Wisconsin prosecutors secretly raided and investigated conservative activists, ostensibly looking for campaign violations during the recall efforts against Gov. Scott Walker, appears to have formally come to an end. Wisconsin's Supreme Court has ruled that no laws were broken, and a majority has concluded that a section of the state's campaign finance law is "unconstitutionally overbroad and vague." From the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel:

"To be clear, this conclusion ends the John Doe investigation because the special prosecutor's legal theory is unsupported in either reason or law," Gableman wrote. "Consequently, the investigation is closed. Consistent with our decision and the order entered by Reserve Judge (Gregory) Peterson, we order that the special prosecutor and the district attorneys involved in this investigation must cease all activities related to the investigation, return all property seized in the investigation from any individual or organization, and permanently destroy all copies of information and other materials obtained through the investigation. All unnamed movants are relieved of any duty to cooperate further with the investigation."

In dissent, Justice Shirley Abrahamson wrote that the ruling had loosened campaign finance rules and that "the majority opinion's theme is 'Anything Goes.'"

"The majority opinion adopts an unprecedented and faulty interpretation of Wisconsin's campaign finance law and of the First Amendment," she wrote. "In doing so, the majority opinion delivers a significant blow to Wisconsin's campaign finance law and to its paramount objectives of 'stimulating vigorous campaigns on a fair and equal basis' and providing for 'a better informed electorate.'"

A spokeswoman for Walker's presidential campaign applauded the ruling.

"Today's ruling confirmed no laws were broken, a ruling that was previously stated by both a state and federal judge," AshLee Strong said. "It is time to move past this unwarranted investigation that has cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars."

David French at The National Review recently delved more deeply into what it was like to be targeted by these "John Doe" investigations. They are named as such because Wisconsin law permits prosecutors to operate in secret and block those being investigated from publicly talking about the case. He opened the piece describing what looks like common police behavior when taking out a drug smuggling operation:

"THEY CAME WITH A BATTERING RAM." Cindy Archer, one of the lead architects of Wisconsin's Act 10 — also called the "Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill," it limited public-employee benefits and altered collective-bargaining rules for public-employee unions — was jolted awake by yelling, loud pounding at the door, and her dogs' frantic barking. The entire house — the windows and walls — was shaking. She looked outside to see up to a dozen police officers, yelling to open the door. They were carrying a battering ram.

She wasn't dressed, but she started to run toward the door, her body in full view of the police. Some yelled at her to grab some clothes, others yelled for her to open the door.

"I was so afraid," she says. "I did not know what to do." She grabbed some clothes, opened the door, and dressed right in front of the police. The dogs were still frantic.

"I begged and begged, 'Please don't shoot my dogs, please don't shoot my dogs, just don't shoot my dogs.' I couldn't get them to stop barking, and I couldn't get them outside quick enough. I saw a gun and barking dogs. I was scared and knew this was a bad mix."

Read French's full account here. Read the court's decision here

NEXT: Stephen Reed, the Mayor Who Believed Unrestrained Government Spending Can Revive Troubled Cities, May Be Heading to Prison

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  1. Yes, no laws were violated by the victims. What about the officials? The court slammed the door on their fingers, so where’s the prosecution of the officials? No immunity when they’re acting illegally.

    1. so where’s the prosecution of the officials?

      This, a thousand times over. This is malicious prosecution. The prosecutors should go to jail for a very long time.

      1. Didn’t you hear? The investigations were defended by a Republican prosecutor. That makes it above board.

    2. Looks like ProL didn’t read yesterday’s “Government Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry” article.

      Tsk tsk.

      1. Yeah, I get that we’re letting people commit crimes in office. But it’s still illegal, and we still shouldn’t sit still for it. Ditto with the IRS and Clinton.

      2. It’s OK. He read today’s. He’ll probably read tomorrow’s. And the seven from next week…

        *sigh*

  2. …we order that the special prosecutor and the district attorneys involved in this investigation must cease all activities related to the investigation, return all property seized in the investigation from any individual or organization, and permanently destroy all copies of information and other materials obtained through the investigation.

    Or else what?

    1. Well, if they were to continue to perform the operation, they’d be subject to civil and criminal charges, with no immunity claims at all for them personally. And the victims (and anyone else) can refuse to cooperate.

        1. If nothing else, the AG of Wisconsin is a Republican. I imagine he could take action and won’t have the political bias to let this sort of blatant crime go by unpunished.

          It’s really pathetic that true-blue leftists at places like DU make excuses and spin everything for really reprehensible behavior. Go ahead, applaud evil. Just hope the other side doesn’t do it to you when it controls the federal government. Or in the vast majority of states it already controls.

          1. Cops and prosecutors can find any number of ways to fuck with a person. I liken it to the scene in O Brother, Where Art Thou. “Is that so? Well, we ain’t got a radio.”

        2. Judges may be loath to punish prosecutors for depriving you of your rights, but that doesn’t mean they won’t punish prosecutors for defying a court order. Fucking with ordinary people is just one of those things. Defying a court order is defying a judge and judges take that personally. The same judge who will happily let a prosecutor get away with violating your rights will throw that same prosecutor in jail for contempt if he ignores a court order.

          You have to understand how judges think.

          1. There was a story earlier posted here about the TSA being sued privately to follow through with a court order issued years ago.

            1. Bureaucracies will defy court orders because responsibility is diffused and obfuscated throughout the organization, intentionally making it difficult to hold any one person responsible.

              1. I understand everyone’s optimism on this, but criminal justice is a pretty big bureaucracy.

                1. It’s pretty obvious that they were violating the law and acting outside of their authority, there’s a court ruling now saying that, and they aren’t the feds. I’d say there could be some consequences. Whether there will, well, who knows? But it’s not one of those situations where the prosecutors are immune to attack.

    1. I’ll be in my bunk.

  3. Meanwhile, DU has a completely different take, of course.

    http://www.democraticunderground.com/10141147914

    1. The butt hurt is just fabulous. God those people are horrible.

      1. They see everything thru blue-tinted glasses. They just can’t help themselves.

        The only thing they seem to disagree on is Sanders vs Clinton, and they generally prefer Sanders.

    2. Goddamn. You must have a stronger stomach than I.

      Reading that shit actually makes me feel ill.

  4. “‘Please don’t shoot my dogs, please don’t shoot my dogs, just don’t shoot my dogs.’ “

    1. It amazes me that this becoming an extremely common reaction isn’t more of an outrage.

      1. Jessuz christ. Begging naked not to shoot harmless defenseless dogs. It’s like something out of a WWII movie with the lowest scum Nazis arresting someone in front of their family.

        The cops are fucking idiots. One of these days they’re going to hit the wrong person and get fed into the woodchipper. And they’ll only have themselves to blame for creating that situation.

      2. We may have a Reason reader in WI.

  5. “I begged and begged, ‘Please don’t shoot my dogs, please don’t shoot my dogs, just don’t shoot my dogs.’ I couldn’t get them to stop barking, and I couldn’t get them outside quick enough. I saw a gun and barking dogs. I was scared and knew this was a bad mix.”

    Justice Abrahamson approves: “The c*nt had it coming.”

    1. Clearly the woman was some kind of SoCon wingnut birther Confederacist, and thus was just trying to make officers of the law look bad. She should have been arrested, and also fired from her job!

  6. “Unnamed movants”? Nice band name.

  7. “Wisconsin law permits prosecutors to operate in secret and block those being investigated from publicly talking about the case.””

    Which reminds me of something….

    1. A friend of mine who was doing some work he thought he might get official notice for put up a webpage to counter this sort of thing.

      “Anyone may ask me to update this webpage. If this webpage goes down, or is not updated after a request, you may safely presume that I have been placed under a gag order.”

      They can make you not talk, but I don’t think they can make you talk.

      1. Zey haff vays uff makink you talk.

      2. Warrant canary is the term of art for those. Unfortunately we don’t know for sure that courts won’t force you to update them. Worth a try anyway.

  8. Where the fuck is the State AG? Why isn’t he pursuing criminal investigations against these prosecutors and their co-conspirators?

    High-profile, perp-walk, press conference type action is what is needed here. Tear these evil shits down, strip them of their livelihood and assets, and cage them.

    Nothing short of that should be acceptable. Period.

  9. Scott, any comment on the reports that the people running this show and Lois Lerner were best buds?

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