Tuesday, November 24, 2015

John Doe victims still in legal limbo four months after Supreme Court ruling

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON, Wisconsin — More than four months have passed since the state Supreme Court ruled Wisconsin’s secret John Doe investigation unconstitutional and ordered it shut down.

People from 29 conservative organizations are still waiting for the return of property the investigators illegally seized and the resumption of their lives — long suspended by the politically driven probe.

“Worse yet, innocent people continue to be harassed by prosecutors filing frivolous motions and threatening to disclose their private information which prosecutors obtained illegally,” said a John Doe target who asked not to be identified for this story due to the unsettled nature of the case.

The release of reconsideration motions is a matter of the court’s discretion.

Diane Fremgen, clerk of the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, told Wisconsin Watchdog on Monday she hasn’t heard anything from the court about a decision. She said such cases can come through quickly, but she recalls one reconsideration ruling released nearly a year after the motion was filed.

It took the high court seven months to issue rulings in the original John Doe-related matters.

On July 16, the Supreme Court ruled — with liberal Justice Ann Walsh Bradley recusing — the investigation based on theories of illegal campaign coordination between the conservative groups and Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign ran afoul of the First Amendment.

Writing for the conservative majority on the court, Justice Michael Gableman slammed the investigation and praised the unnamed movants in the case before the court.

“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,” Gableman wrote in the opinion. “In other words, the special prosecutor was the instigator of a ‘perfect storm’ of wrongs.”

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, a Democrat, launched what became known as “John Doe II” in August 2012. The state’s Government Accountability Board, according to court documents, jumped in to assist the district attorney’s office almost immediately, eventually transforming the probe into a five-county campaign finance dragnet.

The Supreme Court ordered that prosecutors return the millions of records and other items they seized in raids and through a spying operation into targets and destroy any copies.

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