As it relates to the current state of Wisconsin politics, the words “John Doe” have been omnipresent for what seems like Governor Walker’s entire tenure in office. The probe may be close to a conclusion as another challenge to the probe has been eliminated.
In the spring of 2014 Eric O’Keefe, Executive Director of Wisconsin Club for Growth, sued prosecutors in charge of the John Doe probe to hold them personally liable for violating his, and the Club for Growth’s, civil rights. U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Randa ruled in favor of O’Keefe. The prosecutors appealed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. The 7th Circuit reversed Judge Randa’s opinion, stating that the issues it raised should be decided by the state judiciary and dismissed the case. O’Keefe appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in order to get the case reinstated and permanently block the probe. The Supreme Court denied certiorari last week, in effect rejecting O’Keefe’s appeal. The Supreme Court’s rejection ends O’Keefe’s case. However three cases concerning the probe are currently before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
The state supreme court accepted three cases concerning the John Doe probe in mid-December 2014. Two cases were legal challenges from targets of the probe and a third was an action to reinstate the probe brought by special prosecutor Francis Schmitz. The court took up these cases after Judge Gregory Peterson determined the activities being investigated in the probe were not illegal. Schmitz appealed to the District Four Court of Appeals, based in Madison, arguing that Judge Peterson misinterpreted the campaign finance laws in question. The Court of Appeals rejected Judge Peterson’s ruling and the targets of the probe appealed to the state supreme court. The court decided not to hear oral arguments and rely solely on briefs when deciding the case. A decision is expected to be released this summer.