July 16th, 2015

Wisconsin Supreme Court rules John Doe investigations must cease

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled that the John Doe investigations, in which Democratic district attorneys used a vague law to go on an epic fishing expedition to intimidate and threaten Republican groups in their state, must end.

It’s one of those rulings that all Americans ought to applaud, because it preserves our liberty for at least another day, at least in Wisconsin. That’s not a partisan issue, or it shouldn’t be. But of course the reactions to the ruling break down along partisan lines, although most Americans probably have never heard of it and haven’t a clue about the significance of the threat that was just averted in Wisconsin.

And just to make myself clear, I don’t mean the threat to the Scott Walker campaign. I mean the threat to liberty.

Why have most Americans not heard of this case? Well, it’s not a sexy issue, like Caitlyn Jenner’s transformation. And I don’t think it’s being covered all that heavily in the MSM. When it is covered, you get something like today’s NY Times article on the subject, which is worth studying because it’s written in such a clever manner. You could read the entire thing from beginning to end without realizing what the prosecutors actually did in the investigations, or why it was so dangerous. To the Times, this was just a case in which conservative justices decided to protect Scott Walker—or, they seem to want their readers to think that.

You can read their article yourself if you still have access to the Times. The headline is written to remind the reader that Scott Walker was somehow implicated in the investigation, “Scott Walker 2012 Campaign Inquiry Ended by Wisconsin Court,” although by most accounts he actually was not. These are the first two paragraphs:

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that a criminal investigation into allegations of coordination between conservative groups and Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 campaign cannot continue.

The decision of the court, which was divided, ends the specter of a criminal investigation as Mr. Walker pursues the Republican nomination for president. Mr. Walker, who has won three elections for governor over the last five years including a recall challenge in 2012, officially announced his bid on Monday.

The article quotes the decision briefly (just saying that the investigation is closed because the “special prosecutor’s legal theory is unsupported in either reason or law”) but leaves out anything that would actually give the reader an idea of what happened and why. The article goes on to describe the accusations against the Walker supporters, rather than what the accusers themselves had done to the John Doe targets of the investigation—although the latter is central to the lawsuit and the ruling.

In fact, amazingly enough, the words “John Doe” are mentioned only briefly in the fairly lengthy article, and the powers given by the John Doe statute in Wisconsin are never explained, except to say that the act requires secrecy. The investigation is alluded to in extremely vague terms with no details at all, but the charges against the John Doe targets are detailed, and things like this are aired: “legal experts say they suspect that the court’s four conservatives have been asked to step aside because some of the same conservative groups involved in the case spent money in support of some of the justices’ own elections.” A reader could read the entire piece without having a clue what happened here, or why the investigations were so offensive and outrageous, or that this was a case involving issues of liberty and freedom of speech.

So let’s leave the Times behind and turn to the court ruling. You can find good summaries and discussions at Hot Air and Legal Insurrection.

This is what the court actually said:

The special prosecutor has disregarded the vital principle that in our nation and our state political speech is a fundamental right and is afforded the highest level of protection. The special prosecutor’s theories, rather than “assur[ing] [the] unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and social changes desired by the people,” Roth, 354 U.S. at 484, instead would assure that such political speech will be investigated with paramilitary-style home invasions conducted in the pre-dawn hours and then prosecuted and punished. In short, the special prosecutor completely ignores the command that, when seeking to regulate issue advocacy groups, such regulation must be done with “narrow specificity.” Barland II, 751 F.3d at 811 (quotations omitted).

A Times reader would have no idea what the court was talking about, if he/she did ever happen to come across those words, words that the Times did not feel the need to print or even allude to: “paramilitary-style home invasions conducted in the pre-dawn hours.” And then there’s also this from the court ruling:

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.


[NOTE: If the Wisconsin Supreme Court had not had a majority of conservatives on the bench, it is virtually certain that the result would have been the opposite. And remember that Supreme Court justices in Wisconsin are elected. I find that interesting, because until recently Wisconsin has tended to be a blue state.]

17 Responses to “Wisconsin Supreme Court rules John Doe investigations must cease”

  1. Cornhead Says:

    I plan on meeting Walker on Saturday in Iowa. I will get his take.

    I suspect the Dems behind this thing to leak stuff to the press.

  2. expat Says:

    Didn’t Obama just free up some space in prison? I suppose this isn’t a federal offence, but it sure would be nice to have these creeps eating bologna sandwiches for a while.

  3. neo-neocon Says:


    In New England long ago, I’m told that convicts were often served lobster, as it was plentiful and cheap and considered a budget food and not especially desirable.

  4. Sam L. Says:

    NYT thinks, no, KNOWS, that what was done to Walker’s supporters was the right thing to do.

  5. Cornhead Says:

    And all that very strong language is the legal equivalent of the majority on the Badger Supreme Court beating the hell out of the prosecutors at halftime of a football game at Camp Randall Stadium.

  6. Oldflyer Says:

    Hooray for the court in this instance. Occasionally, in various locales, one will actually apply the law wisely, and fairly.

    When I read of the disgusting behavior of appointed (and elected) public officials, and their gestapo like flunkies, under the cloak of those John Doe warrants, it made me sick. It is obvious that no one is safe as long as such as they are allowed to operate unfettered

    The New York Times does not deserve to be called a newspaper; propaganda rag, would be charitable. Goebbels would no doubt feel right at home.

  7. Oldflyer Says:

    Oh, and hooray for the brave folks who challenged those “John Doe” travesties.

  8. charles Says:

    Maybe it is just wishful thinking/remembering on my part; but, I seem to recall a time when most folks from both parties – no matter how adversarial – would/could still be depended on to be “American first.”

    I remember when Mondale did his concession speech after losing to Reagan. At the mention of Reagan’s name several in the crowd started to boo. Mondale chastised them saying something along the lines of he is OUR President now and deserves more respect than that.

    Funny, I didn’t vote for the guy and that class act made me have second thoughts. But, now, so many politicians have become such partisan hacks – at any cost! – that I now despise most of them. I also don’t trust most of them.

    And, Neo, this comment is related to your other post about how Obama has changed the US – I don’t trust MY government – not one bit. If I do or say the “wrong” thing will I have some government thugs come after me? Or if simply by being the “wrong” category of person (i.e. race, gender, class) will I become a target of someone in government?

  9. Molly NH Says:

    I believe the *target* citizen is suing the state prosecutor now. (See how they like it)
    Also Megyn Kelly has been covering this, she ll probably do an update tonight.

  10. roc scssrs Says:

    I’m very surprised the NYT didn’t mention the Koch brothers!

  11. Artfldgr Says:

    they said that the getting rid of white guys and chinese from college must stop with those programs, then weedled a pseudo exception, and now i think they are up to five cases in which the means ends and a variation.

    is this ok [5 years pass]
    is this ok [4 years]
    is this ok [10 years]

    in this way, decades of illegal actions continue to this day… not a bit of change…

  12. Yancey Ward Says:

    Actually, this is a scary ruling for exactly the reasons you mention at the end, Neo. It is quite clear, now, that you won’t have a right to a voice at some point in the future- the Left will start using the apparatus of criminal justice to silence critics. The Rubicon has been crossed.

  13. Ackler Says:

    This is very good news. A couple thoughts:

    First, about the NY Times obfuscatory headline and disinformative article: I expect nothing less. None of us should. The once proud Grey Lady is largely a liberal (at times) or leftist (at other times) propaganda periodical. It reports news from an obvious and unapologetic slant. Obvious…to some, at any rate. And to be honest, I would be completely okay with this fact, all other things being equal. We live in an era of opinion journalism; if a venerable publication wishes to descend into this milieu, partly for idealistic reasons (Pinch Sulzberger’s, that is) and partly for economic reasons (they are selling a product – smug reassurance – in high demand among many liberals of a certain socio-economic-educational class). So be it.

    However, all other things are not equal, and herein lies the rub. The Times continues to command a mystical reputation it has long relinquished. 20-30+ years ago, it certainly had a liberal slant, but still (under Punch Sulzberger) was mindful enough to try to maintain a certain level of balance and objectivity. This has long vanished. Yet, its long undeserved reputation (the newspaper of record) remains in far too many circles.

    Along with Neo and many others on this blog, I live in a deep blue city, in a fairly blue state. I also am in a profession dominated by liberals, progressives and leftists. In this milieu, Hillary is considered rather conservative, Obama is a moderate and Bernie Sanders is the ideal (except for his less than orthodox views on guns).

    I have many, many friends and colleagues (particularly older, less tech savvy individuals) who exclusively rely on two sources for national news: The NY Times and NPR. Moreover they are reflexively adamant such is sufficient to be a well-informed individual. If you turn the thumbscrews on them, they *might* concede the Times and NPR have a slight liberal slant (but not nearly as slanted as FOX NEWS, FOX NEWS, EVIL FOX NEWS). But they remain utterly convinced (A) if these two sources didn’t report it, it must have been of little consequence; (B) if these two sources did report it, it must have happened pretty much as it was reported. Their ignorance, intransigence and smugness is infuriating. The lingering reputation of the Times cultivates all three

    Second, as to the conservative majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Native born Badger (since relocated) speaking here. 🙂 Wisconsin has certainly been a blue state nationally for the last 30 years. At the state level, however, it’s always been purple, with significant pockets of red. Walker has successfully utilized (and artfully expanded upon) a base which was always present. Democrats tend to dominate in high profile elections in the state; but the GOP has had a slight edge in lower profile races for years. That’s why the legislature has been Republican dominated for almost all of the last 20+ years. And it’s how the State Supreme Court moved right. Repeatedly, the higher caliber candidate (both as a judge and a candidate) was the conservative. Roggensack and Ziegler both were initially elected against weak left-leaning opponents. Gableman won by running a savvy, if slightly underhanded campaign, against lefty icon Louis Butler. In wake of the plethora of disheartening recent SCOTUS decisions, conservatives should take note: Judges matter. And yes, high quality conservative (and consistently conservative) judges do exist. Many more need to be cultivated.

  14. RickZ Says:

    Ackler Says:

    The once proud Grey Lady

    Okay, you got me. When was that? During the Walter Duranty era, or some other time in History? The Old Grey Whore has been leaking syphilitic ooze from its orifices for decades.

  15. Richard Aubrey Says:

    I wouldn’t know, directly. But some old ex-Reds like Ron Radosh have said that the progs always try to take over organizations wherever they may be. Campus clubs, whatever. They show up early, stay late, never miss a meeting, take on various functions….and end up running the thing.
    I’ve heard the same is true of various local and higher bar associations.
    I guess we’ll see what the local bar does wrt Chisholm and his flunkies. Disbar or a sympathy card.

  16. MikeII Says:

    “I guess we’ll see what the local bar does wrt Chisholm and his flunkies. Disbar or a sympathy card.”
    Unfortunately, it will be a sympathy card. If these “fine” organizations were not offended by the jack booted tactics of the major players in the past news reports, why would they be offended now. I wish they were more principled and honest but after-all they are lawyers. 🙁

    I don’t think you can make a lawyer honest by an act of legislature. You’ve got to work on his conscience. And his lack of conscience is what makes him a lawyer-Will Rogers

  17. Ymarsakar Says:

    So what’s the point of enthroning Walker if he is just going to empower and enrich lawyers and make them do most of the fighting?

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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