Wisconsin Supreme Court Terminates Unconstitutional John Doe Investigation
Graves Garrett LLC is pleased to announce that the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled a second time against prosecutors in their “John Doe” investigation of the Wisconsin Club for Growth and its director, Eric O’Keefe. Graves Garrett LLC defended the Club and O’Keefe against the wide-ranging investigation that prosecutors used to harass and intimidate a wide range of conservative groups and political figures not only in Wisconsin, but across the country.
The court’s order on July 16 declared the investigation unconstitutional and required prosecutors to return all documents and other materials they had seized. Prosecutors doubled down, however, demanding that the court reconsider its decision and threatening to use the seized materials for additional investigations against their targets. They also secretly approached another judge for permission to disclose carefully selected documents to the public as a means to punish their targets.
Meanwhile, public filings revealed that Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, who had purported to step aside in favor of Special Prosecutor Francis Schmitz early in the investigation, remained in control of the John Doe along with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (“GAB”). The GAB, which had filed its own so-called “friend of the court” briefs in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, actually paid Schmitz, the prosecution team’s “nominal leader,” and funded and operated the investigation alongside Chisholm. GAB Board members and staff responded to criticism by publicly attacking the John Doe targets and even the Court.
“The Supreme Court today reaffirms its ruling that District Attorney John Chisholm’s secret investigation was unconstitutional from its inception,” said Todd Graves, who with Edward Greim served as counsel. “It also reveals that even after being told in July that their conduct was unacceptable, the prosecution team was not chastened. Instead, Chisholm and the GAB continued to attack the John Doe targets and cover up their own misdeeds.”
In its December 2 ruling, the Court simultaneously terminated Schmitz’s authority as Special Prosecutor and made him personally responsible to unravel the damage wrought by Chisholm and the GAB. This includes providing notice “to all individuals and organizations whose documents or electronic data were obtained by the prosecution team in the course of the John Doe II investigation or were obtained in the course of the John Doe I investigation and were authorized to be used in the John Doe II investigation.” The order also applies to “all persons who worked for or were associated with [Schmitz] and the prosecution team,” sending a clear message to the GAB, Chisholm, or others outside of Wisconsin who were recently revealed to have funded, operated or aided the investigation from the shadows.
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