SCOTUS grants permission to file "writ of certiorari under seal," a sign it wants to hear more about the caseThe so-called “John Doe” investigation into illegal campaign coordination between Scott Walker, third party special interests groups and his donor base is moving forward.
granted prosecutors permission (PDF) to file “a writ of certiorari under seal,” meaning they can file a request for the Court to hear the case with personal information of principal players redacted. A John Doe investigation is purposely performed under secretive means to protect the identities of those being investigated, usually in high-profile cases.
It’s been confirmed to the public, however, that the John Doe investigation includes Gov. Scott Walker and politically-aligned conservative groups that he coordinated with in order to allow donors to make unlimited donation amounts to help win his recall election back in 2012. One such donation, $700,000 from Gogebic Taconite, likely resulted in helping secure legislation favorable to allow the company to mine in northern Wisconsin.
Five county district attorneys, including Ismael Ozanne of Dane County and John Chisholm of Milwaukee County, sought to investigate just how far this collusion went, but were abruptly stopped by intervening state courts that demanded the investigation come to a halt and that all evidence be destroyed. Appealing to the state Supreme Court, four conservative justices agreed with the lower court rulings.
But some of those justices had benefitted financially from the very same organizations involved in the case before them, causing many to question whether their opinions weren’t influenced in some way. More than $10 million was spent to support these judicial candidates by these conservative groups that were at the center of the investigation.
Wisconsin’s code for judges and justices states that a “judge shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety,” which includes actions that “would create in reasonable minds a perception that the judge's ability to carry out judicial responsibilities with integrity” would be compromised. Certainly receiving millions of dollars in campaign donations and refusing to recuse oneself would fit the bill -- at least, it would in a reasonable mind, and it has in previous Supreme Court cases.
Which is likely the reasoning behind the order made by the federal Supreme Court to allow the writ to move forward. The order means that the justices want to hear more from Chisholm and the other DAs, which is a good indicator that they want to have the case end up before them eventually. It isn’t a guarantee, of course, but why else would the Court allow the writ to continue if it were otherwise?
What’s known for certain? The John Doe investigation isn’t dead like some reported it was. It’s very much alive, thanks to some reasonable minds on the federal Supreme Court.