Tuesday, May 24, 2016

U.S. Supreme Court revives John Doe investigation into Walker's illegal campaign coordination

SCOTUS grants permission to file "writ of certiorari under seal," a sign it wants to hear more about the case

The so-called “John Doe” investigation into illegal campaign coordination between Scott Walker, third party special interests groups and his donor base is moving forward.

The U.S. Supreme Court granted prosecutors permission (PDF) to file “a writ of certiorari under seal,” meaning they can file a request for the Court to hear the case with personal information of principal players redacted. A John Doe investigation is purposely performed under secretive means to protect the identities of those being investigated, usually in high-profile cases.

It’s been confirmed to the public, however, that the John Doe investigation includes Gov. Scott Walker and politically-aligned conservative groups that he coordinated with in order to allow donors to make unlimited donation amounts to help win his recall election back in 2012. One such donation, $700,000 from Gogebic Taconite, likely resulted in helping secure legislation favorable to allow the company to mine in northern Wisconsin.

Five county district attorneys, including Ismael Ozanne of Dane County and John Chisholm of Milwaukee County, sought to investigate just how far this collusion went, but were abruptly stopped by intervening state courts that demanded the investigation come to a halt and that all evidence be destroyed. Appealing to the state Supreme Court, four conservative justices agreed with the lower court rulings.

But some of those justices had benefitted financially from the very same organizations involved in the case before them, causing many to question whether their opinions weren’t influenced in some way. More than $10 million was spent to support these judicial candidates by these conservative groups that were at the center of the investigation.

Wisconsin’s code for judges and justices states that a “judge shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety,” which includes actions that “would create in reasonable minds a perception that the judge's ability to carry out judicial responsibilities with integrity” would be compromised. Certainly receiving millions of dollars in campaign donations and refusing to recuse oneself would fit the bill -- at least, it would in a reasonable mind, and it has in previous Supreme Court cases.

Which is likely the reasoning behind the order made by the federal Supreme Court to allow the writ to move forward. The order means that the justices want to hear more from Chisholm and the other DAs, which is a good indicator that they want to have the case end up before them eventually. It isn’t a guarantee, of course, but why else would the Court allow the writ to continue if it were otherwise?

What’s known for certain? The John Doe investigation isn’t dead like some reported it was. It’s very much alive, thanks to some reasonable minds on the federal Supreme Court.


  1. It is interesting to me that David Prosser fought so hard to stay on the State Supreme Court when his vote was crucial to the John Doe investigation; getting it thrown out and unbelievably,ordering the evidence destroyed. Now that the US Supreme Court may very well take up the case he wants to retire? I hope he knows that retiring won't protect him if he is compicit in trying to protect Walker, Club for Growth, and others from collusion in regards to Walkers recall election funds.

  2. He fought hard knowing his high profile name was the only one that was going to defeat Kloppenburg at the time along with the shenanigans pulled by the Waukesha County Clerk. Knowing he could retire after the election so Walker could appoint a conservative to fulfill his 10 years on the bench. The question is can walker pardon him if he is convicted?

  3. Retirement prior to indictment allows him to keep his pension, though.

  4. It's hard to believe that justice has not yet caught up with these crooked politicians and judges. If the whole bunch were brought to justice the private prison system would have to bill a new wing on one of their prisons. The Wisconsin Justice Wing has a nice ring.

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  6. Boy, you guys should really hire someone who understands these things better than whoever wrote this does. This is an encouraging decision, but it certainly does not "revive" anything and tells us virtually nothing about how the case will turn out. You read far too much into it.

  7. Boy, you guys should really hire someone who understands these things better than whoever wrote this does. This is an encouraging decision, but it certainly does not "revive" anything and tells us virtually nothing about how the case will turn out. You read far too much into it.

  8. Does anyone know if they actually destroyed any evidence? Or has it all been preserved?

  9. I agree with Bill, this whole post is nonsense.

    Permitting a writ to be submitted under seal is a mechanical process that indicates exactly nothing about the likelihood of the court hearing the appeal. It doesn't mean that the court has any particular interest in this case, it just means that the appellant has met the very low standard required to apply for cert under seal.

    The U.S. Supreme Court is not going to take this case. It's not even a remote possibility. There isn't really a federal question involved and the alleged coordination between Walker's campaign and outside groups isn't illegal under state law. And they definitely won't touch the recusal issue either because that's purely a question of state law.

    This whole John Doe thing has been dumb and desperate, and I say that as someone who has no love for Scott Walker.

    1. I respectfully disagree, and stand by my post. As a supplement to what I wrote above, please also refer to this site: http://blogs.reuters.com/alison-frankel/2016/05/27/the-rise-and-apparent-decline-of-sealed-petitions-at-the-supreme-court/

      They state: "It turns out that the Supreme Court has permitted sealed cert petitions in more than 130 cases since 1988...the justices have denied 29 motions to file under seal, according to Westlaw. The court is four times as likely to grant a seal motion, in other words, than to deny it."

      Now, do I *guarantee* the case will be heard? Of course not. But statistically speaking, it has a higher chance.