By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON, Wis. – In a scorching critique, U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Randa verbally hammers the prosecutors in a politically charged John Doe investigation for seeking “refuge in the Court of Public Opinion, having lost in this Court of law.”
The federal judge’s stinging assessment of the prosecutors-turned defendants in a civil rights lawsuit came in a ruling Thursday that rejects in part unsealing a raft of records related to the investigation, a move that Randa believes is needed to protect two unnamed intervenors in the matter.
Randa’s multi-part order quickly followed the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ order unsealing numerous records in the lawsuit, filed by conservative activist Eric O’Keefe and his Wisconsin Club for growth, among a multitude of targets in the nearly two-year-old probe.
The defendants – including Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, the Democrat who launched the investigation in late summer 2012; two of his assistant DAs; special prosecutor Francis Schmitz; and a shadowy contracted investigator – have reversed their entrenched position that all documents must remain sealed.
In agreeing with a media coalition that asked Randa to unseal reams of John Doe-related documents, the prosecutors insisted that the probe had become so widely publicized that secrecy is no longer justified. The prosecutors, in a filing last month, criticized O’Keefe and the club for asking the court to keep sealed some records while opening up the rest.
“(It is) beyond irony that the plaintiffs and their counsel now ask the Court to block media access to the documents that outline the investigation and detail the reasons why the plaintiffs’ conduct was subject to scrutiny,” the prosecutors claimed.
Saying the prosecutors’ claim “smacks of irony,” Randa in his ruling Thursday said their position is “at odds with their duty as prosecutors, which is to see that in any John Doe proceeding the rights of the innocent accused are protected in pursuit of a criminal investigation.”
“That duty would seem to dictate that the (prosecutors’) position on this issue should coincide with that of the Unnamed Intervenors even though the information gained through the John Doe investigation is being used in this civil action,” the judge wrote.
Indeed, that’s the law.
As Randa has noted, picking up on the verbiage of the unnamed intervenors, Wisconsin’s unique John Doe law is a “kissing cousin” of the grand jury procedure. But grand juries come with a jury of peers, while John Doe probes are in the hands of one judge, vested with significant powers.
Like grand juries, John Doe probes are conducted in secret to prevent “testimony which may be mistaken or untrue or irrelevant from becoming public,” Randa quotes in his order. “One of the principal reasons for preserving the secrecy of grand jury proceedings is to protect the reputations of both witnesses and those under investigation,” he further quotes.
The intervenors, also targets of the investigation, argued in their motion to keep the court documents sealed that Randa has ordered the John Doe shut down through a preliminary injunction. Further the federal judge has concluded that the prosecutors’ theory that conservative organizations illegally coordinated with Republican Gov. Scott Walkers’ campaign is “simply wrong,” a position shared by the investigation’s presiding Judge Gregory Peterson.
“A glaring injustice could be inflicted and irreparable injury caused to the reputation of a person if it were to become known that there is or ever was before the grand jury any proceeding concerning him if he were not subsequently indicted,” Randa quoted, in asserting that the “ongoing risk to the Unnamed Intervenors’ reputations is all too real.”
Ultimately, Randa concluded that he must not permit the original parties of the civil rights lawsuit to “safeguard their own interests to the detriment of non-parties who have not opened the door to exposure by filing suit … and will suffer greater personal harm than any organization can assert.”
The judge said he does appreciate the “intense public interest surrounding this case.” Still the “zealous pursuit of information threatens to envelop and irreparably harm the Unnamed Intervenors, alongside all the other targets of the John Doe investigation who have suffered in silence.”
“In this manner, wholesale unsealing would actually undermine the Court’s injunction by subjecting those who facilitated protected political speech to unwanted public scrutiny,” Randa said.
So Randa denied the media coalition’s motion to unseal the records in question and granted the unnamed intervenors’ motion to maintain sealing certain documents.
He then granted O’Keefe’s motions to file various materials under seal, but denied the Milwaukee County prosecutors’ “motion for leave to file materials under seal.”
And the judge ordered the plaintiffs and the defendants to work with the unnamed intervenors to file a “joint report regarding the extent to which the balance of the record in this case should be unsealed. That report is expected within 14 days.
“Obviously, this means that the plaintiffs and the defendants must allow the Unnamed Intervenors to access the sealed record in this case,” Randa wrote.
Finally, Randa notes the unsealing of certain documents by the 7th Circuit in its 268-page release, and that, basically, that genie is out of the bottle.
“Therefore, the Unnamed Intervenors’ motion to maintain sealing is now moot with respect to these docket entries,” the judge wrote.
Contact M.D. Kittle at email@example.com
- Sources: Secret probe targeting conservatives is abuse of prosecutorial powers
- Scary! Phantom prosecutor in Dems’ war on conservatives disappears inside courthouse
- EXCLUSIVE: Judge in Democrat-led John Doe probe recuses herself
- Democrats’ ‘intelligence-gathering’ spreads in Wisconsin
- Democrats tap anti-terror expert to head secret probe of Wisconsin conservatives
- Sheriff Clarke: John Doe case shows Milwaukee DA is ‘weaponized for political purposes’
- Clarke: John Doe into conservatives ‘unbridled,’ ‘dangerous’ and ‘tainted’
- Sources: New judge named in Democrat-led secret probe
- Vendetta justice? Criticism growing about John Doe prosecutor Bruce Landgraf
- Will Wisconsin’s own ‘Miserable’ inspector jail conservative activist for speaking out about Dem probe?
- Conservative targets bring in big guns to Democrat-led John Doe fight
- ‘Dangerous’ game: Former FEC official blasts Democrats’ secret investigation of conservative groups
- Center for Media and Democracy: Liberals are morally superior
- Wisconsin Dems suddenly support political investigations
- WI Republican attorney general to represent judges in Democrat-led John Doe probe
- Republicans speak out about silent John Doe targeting conservatives
- Biggest secret in John Doe may be just how judges and special prosecutors are selected
- WSJ: John Doe judge deals body blow to secret probe targeting conservatives
- Vos: Wait until John Doe in ‘rearview mirror’ before revisiting law
- Lawsuits looming in Wisconsin’s crumbling John Doe probe?
- Conservative to Democrat prosecutors: Shut down secret political probe or face civil rights lawsuit
- John Doe target O’Keefe taking on IRS, too
- Lawmaker: Wisconsin’s John Doe like Christie’s ‘Bridgegate’
- Target files civil rights lawsuit against Wisconsin’s John Doe prosecutors
- Disparate treatment: Civil rights lawsuit claims conservative speech trampled
- Liberal group looking to take Wisconsin’s John Doe national
- John Doe judge: ‘Results of the John Doe speak for themselves’
- John Doe special prosecutor appeals judge’s ruling quashing subpoenas
- John Doe prosecutor pushed for brain-damaged man’s conviction in ATF debacle
- Conservatives counterpunch John Doe prosecutors’ move to stall injunction
- Shadowy John Doe investigator invokes federalism in civil rights lawsuit
- John Doe prosecutors wanted higher-priced lawyers, source says
- Secret agent Dean Nickel’s defense: ‘Dean Nickel is not responsible’
- D’oh! John Doe prosecutors claim secrecy protection – after filing secret documents
- Recusal in John Doe case raises questions of fairness, purpose
- Absolute immunity makes it tough to prosecute the prosecutors of John Doe
- Poll suggests Dems’ big ‘secret’ weapon against Walker is backfiring
- ‘Easy target’: Kelly Rindfleisch breaks silence about John Doe probe
- SCOTUS ruling on campaign finance shows abuse of John Doe, targets say
- Nobody will say what John Doe’s shadow man did, but taxpayers are paying his legal bill
- Judge denies John Doe prosecutors’ move to dismiss civil rights suit
- Civil rights expert: John Doe law is ‘un-American,’ like something from ‘Nazi Germany’
- Target: John Doe prosecutors making up campaign law as they go along
- John Doe, as it is being used, must go, WI senator says
- John Doe target says prosecutors latest move another delay tactic
- John Doe prosecutors sound defensive in latest court filings
- Federal judge denies John Doe prosecutors’ motion to stall civil rights case
- Media coalition asks judge to open sealed John Doe documents
- Are John Doe prosecutors sweating out federal judge’s decision?
- John Doe is dead: Judge stops WI prosecutors’ probe into conservatives
- This is what the Fourth Amendment looks like?
- What’s next for now-defunct John Doe probe?
- Appeals court stalls judge’s order halting John Doe probe
- Federal judge’s ruling could open up sealed John Doe records
- Federal judge orders John Doe probe shut down again
- Lawmakers call for review of GAB’s secret John Doe activities, funds
- Lawyers, lawyers everywhere and other dispatches from John Doe Land
- Secret’s out: The world is beginning to learn more about WI’s John Doe
- Still their little secret? Questions remain on John Doe gag order
- Appeals Court declares portions of Wisconsin campaign finance law unconstitutional
- John Doe prosecutors suddenly support opening sealed court records
- Expert: It’s as if GAB decided ‘Citizens United didn’t exist’
- John Doe prosecutors voice phony outrage, legal source says
- GAB still reviewing court ruling declaring WI campaign finance law unconstitutional
- State Farm still doesn’t want to cover John Doe prosecutor’s legal bills
- For the Walker-hating left, John Doe is ‘Mission Accomplished’
- Sources: No urgency in WI Supreme Court on John Doe
- Would Walker settlement with John Doe prosecutors be a deal with the devil?
- Contempt questions surround reported John Doe deal talks
- Walker’s John Doe response raises more questions than answers
- Sources: Attorney General passes on defending GAB in John Doe cases
- Attorney to judge: Don’t let John Doe prosecutor ‘moot’ injunction
- John Doe targets sue Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board
- Federal judge says his order halting John Doe probe should be clear to prosecutor
- John Doe special prosecutor’s bill still shrouded in secrecy
- ‘Are these kind of armed pre-dawn raids standard operating procedure?’
- John Doe special prosecutor obeys judge’s order
- ‘Never-ending’ John Doe never ended, WSJ reports
- Appeals court upholds judge’s order shutting down John Doe probe
- O’Keefe keeps collecting big wins in John Doe lawsuit
- John Doe I judge says he’s not responsible for John Doe II
- Will taxpayers have to pay for frivolity of John Doe prosecutors?
- John Doe prosecutors jump back into the dark?
- What about those prosecutors? Questions surround other John Doe DAs
- Humiliated in court, WI Dems take their anti-conservative John Doe probe to the media
- Federal judge blasts John Doe prosecutors – again – as he denies records release
- Right on cue: Document dump fuels anti-Walker donation drive
- Wall Street Journal points out ‘disgrace’ of mainstream John Doe reporting
- Expert: John Doe raids raise ‘troubling’ Fourth Amendment questions
- Kelly Rindfleisch tells conservatives, ‘Don’t back down’
- Mainstream media forced to walk back Walker ‘criminal scheme’ narrative
- John Doe prosecutors engaged in premature justification, conservatives say
- Is John Doe probe a case of a mini NSA in Wisconsin?
- AG opinion means accountability board’s John Doe secrets are safe — for now
- Senator asks attorney general to compel GAB to open up its books
- GAB now playing secrets in state John Doe lawsuit
- Will John Doe prosecutors launch lengthy probe against Trek Bicycle?
- John Doe prosecutors engaged in war of words — lots and lots of words
- Judge denies conservatives’ request to add GAB to civil rights lawsuit
- Oral arguments set in John Doe prosecutors’ appeal
- In John Doe Land, the left doesn’t illegally coordinate
- John Doe document blitz must have broken mainstream media’s heart
- Senator: Looks like accountability board is hiding something
- Kelly Rindfleisch appeal to test validity of John Doe digital searches
- Conservatives in John Doe battle know disclosure comes with a heavy price
- Appeals court orders release of some John Doe documents
- Taxpayers on the hook up to $25,000 for GAB’s legal maneuvers
- Overheated media erroneously bring back Walker ‘criminal scheme’ theme
- ‘Retaliation’: Docs show state prosecutors launched mini-NSA probe of WI conservatives
- John Doe prosecutors take desperate, unethical slap