CHICAGO (Legal Newsline) – A federal appeals court has ruled that a lower court was wrong to stop a “John Doe” proceeding initiated by a Wisconsin district attorney against Gov. Scott Walker.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed an injunction granted by U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa that stopped Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm’s investigation into Walker, who is currently running for re-election against Democrat Mary Burke.
The four-year criminal investigation alleges “illegal coordination” of campaign funding by Walker and 29 independent nonprofits.
Randa had found that the conduct of Walker and his political allies was legal and entered the injunction.
However, the Seventh Circuit, in an opinion authored by Judge Frank Easterbrook, ruled the Anti-Injunction Act keeps federal courts from barring state court proceedings.
Easterbrook also wrote that there is a good reason to keep the state court proceeding going.
“The Supreme Court has yet to determine what ‘coordination’ means,” Easterbrook wrote. “Is the scope of permissible regulation limited to groups that advocate the election of particular candidates, or can government also regulate coordination of contributions and speech about political issues, when the speakers do not expressly advocate any person’s election?
“What if the speech implies, rather than expresses, a preference for a particular candidate’s election? If regulation of coordination about pure issue advocacy is permissible, how tight must the link be between the politician’s committee and the advocacy group?
“Uncertainty is a powerful reason to leave this litigation in state court, where it may meet its end as a matter of state law without any need to resolve these constitutional questions.”
A recent report authored by Stuart Taylor, Jr., of the American Media Institute and published by Legal Newsline detailed the history of Chisholm’s investigation and cited a then-anonymous source who alleged Chisholm’s wife was a driving force behind the probe.
The source, who feared retaliation but had his anonymity spoiled by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, said Chisholm’s wife was brought to tears by Walker’s proposal to require public employee unions to contribute to their retirement and health care plans for the first time.
Chisholm’s wife was a teacher’s union shop steward at a school in St. Francis.