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U.S. SC will not hear ‘John Doe’ lawsuit

By Jessica M. Karmasek | May 20, 2015

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WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a lawsuit seeking to quash a secret, or “John Doe,” investigation into Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign.


On Monday, the nation’s high court denied a petition for a writ of certiorari filed by those targeted by the investigation.


The justices, in their 13-page order list, did not provide any explanation for their decision in O’Keefe v. Chisholm.

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 review with the Supreme Court.


Joseph Russell, attorney for special prosecutor Francis Schmitz, said in a statement that the court’s decision to not hear the case represents a “complete victory” for Schmitz and his team.


“The order of the Supreme Court confirms that this decision is now final and unappealable,” he said.


“The arguments and defenses we have asserted on behalf of Mr. Schmitz since this case was filed were adopted in their entirety by the Court, and those findings will not be reviewed by the Supreme Court.


“As the 7th Circuit found, ‘No opinion issued by the Supreme Court, or by any court of appeals, establishes (‘clearly’ or otherwise) that the First Amendment forbids regulation of coordination between campaign committees and issue-advocacy groups -- let alone that the First Amendment forbids even an inquiry into that topic.”


However, the Wisconsin Supreme Court hasn’t yet made its decision in a consolidated John Doe-related case.


In December, in separate but related state litigation, the state Supreme Court agreed to take up petitions originally filed in the court last February and others.


Three lawsuits have been filed; two by unnamed parties challenging the investigation’s validity and another by prosecutors looking to reinstate subpoenas.


The petitioners argue they have done nothing illegal and have free-speech rights, while prosecutors contend the groups did not operate independently of Walker’s campaign.


The state Supreme Court said it will decide the matter on briefs. A ruling is expected this summer.


From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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