Judge orders document release in John Doe probe
MADISON — A federal judge has ordered the release of more than 100 documents in a secret investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s recall campaign and other conservative groups.
U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa issued the order Wednesday night after prosecutors said they no longer objected to publicizing the documents that include a letter from Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm to Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, motions, briefs, affidavits, petitions, and judge’s orders, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.
The secret investigation, known as a John Doe, focused on alleged illegal coordination between conservative groups, Walker’s campaign and others during recall elections in 2011 and 2012.
The attorney for special prosecutor Francis Schmitz wrote that the case had “become so widely known that maintaining the integrity of the investigation may no longer justify maintaining secrecy.”
In April, Schmitz asked Randa for a protective order to prevent the Wisconsin Club for Growth from providing sealed John Doe documents to anyone, including the group’s criminal defense attorneys at the Kansas City law firm Graves Garrett, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. But on Wednesday, Schmitz asked to withdraw that request.
“The Milwaukee County prosecutors support the unsealing of the record in this proceeding,” wrote Samuel Leib, the lawyer representing Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and two of his prosecutors.
Five journalism groups initially asked for the documents to be released. On Wednesday, lawyers for two unidentified people asked Randa if they could intervene to keep portions of the documents private.
Randa did grant a request by the conservative Wisconsin Club for Growth to keep four documents private, after the group’s attorneys told Randa that disclosure of those documents could harm the Club’s First Amendment privilege.
Walker, who is running for re-election as he considers whether to seek the GOP nomination for president in 2016, scored a victory last week when Randa halted the investigation for the second time. Prosecutors were expected to ask for a stay while their appeal of Randa’s order halting the probe is pending.
Randa issued the ruling in a lawsuit filed by Wisconsin Club for Growth, which claims the so-called John Doe investigation amounted to harassment.
Deadlines for attorneys to file briefs in that case stretch through the end of July, and a final decision may not come until after the November election.