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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

U.S. SC still hasn’t decided if it will take up Wis. ‘John Doe’ lawsuit

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Apr 28, 2015

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - The U.S. Supreme Court still hasn’t decided whether it will hear a lawsuit seeking to quash a secret, or “John Doe,” investigation into Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign.

The nation’s high court issued its eight-page order list Monday. O’Keefe v. Chisholm did not appear on the list, which included those petitions for review it decided to grant and those it did not.


However, there still is a chance the court could decide to take up the case in another round of orders next week.

In September, 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 now eyeing a 2016 run for President.


The Seventh Circuit ruled that a lower court was wrong to stop the four-year criminal investigation, which alleges “illegal coordination” of campaign funding by Walker and 29 independent nonprofits.


Judge Frank Easterbrook, who authored the Seventh Circuit’s opinion, said the Anti-Injunction Act keeps federal courts from barring state court proceedings.


In October, those targeted by Chisholm’s investigation -- among them, the Wisconsin Club for Growth and its chief strategist and fundraiser, Eric O’Keefe -- asked the full Seventh Circuit to rehear the case.


The court denied the en banc rehearing petition. In January, the group filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court.


However, a decision may be made by the Wisconsin Supreme Court before the high court ever issues a ruling in the case.


Last month, the state Supreme Court declined to hear arguments in a consolidated John Doe-related case.


A majority of the court agreed that after considering all of the parties’ positions and “bearing in mind the very unique nature” of the case, that it is “neither legally nor practically reasonable” to hold arguments.


“The prospect of oral argument creates severe tension between important and conflicting priorities,” the order states.


“On the one hand, the court is strongly adverse to the idea of closing the courtroom to the public; our long tradition is to render public decisions based on public arguments, both oral and written.


“On the other hand, we must uphold the John Doe secrecy orders, from which no party has appealed and which protect a vast amount of information from disclosure, including the John Doe docket and activity records, John Doe filings, process issued by the John Doe judge, and all other matters observed or heard in the John Doe proceeding.”


The state Supreme Court must decide whether the investigation, which has been put on the back burner since early last year, can go on.


From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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