Posts Tagged ‘Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’
July 16th, 2015 at 5:06 pm
Wisconsin’s “John Doe” Prosecutions Come to an Ignominious End
Posted by Print

One of the more disturbing stories of political censorship of the past half-decade just came to a close in Wisconsin. The state’s Supreme Court ruled 4-2 on Thursday that a section of Wisconsin’s campaign finance law is “unconstitutionally overbroad and vague.” Moreover, the court said, a special prosecutor appointed by Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisolm to probe allegedly unlawful coordination between Governor Scott Walker and independent activist groups during the 2011 and 2012 statewide recall campaigns ended up investigating perfectly legal activities.

In short, the political fishing expedition against Badger State conservatives is finished.

Here are a few backgrounders on the investigation, which made prime targets of Wisconsin Club for Growth executive director Eric O’Keefe and at least 28 other activist groups.

A (very) short version: In 2013, the Milwaukee DA’s office and special prosecutor Francis Schmitz began hitting activists with subpoenas demanding everything from emails and memos to donor lists. As one judge would later put it, Schmitz’s subpoenas were “so extensive that they make the fruits of the legendary Watergate break-in look insignificant by comparison.” Although the subpoenas just happened to coincide with the beginning of Walker’s reelection campaign for governor, prosecutors denied any political motivation for the probe. (What? Did you think they would affirm a political motive?)

O’Keefe and Wisconsin Club for Growth sued Schmitz, et. al., contending the state’s investigation violated their First Amendment rights. A federal court last year agreed, halting a probe that had involved—among other things—SWAT teams conducting pre-dawn raids on citizens’ homes as if they were no different than drug peddlers or mob capos. Such abuses were made possible by Wisconsin’s “John Doe” law, which allows prosecutors to operate in secret—and thus without any meaningful public scrutiny or accountability.

As the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports, “Large sections of court filings have been blacked out—which is highly unusual” because of the law, which lets prosecutors the power to compel people hand over documents and give testimony while forbidding them from speaking about the investigation with anyone except their lawyers. Such proceedings may be common in national security and certain criminal cases, but applying the law to a campaign-finance law investigation smacked of political persecution—which the court recognized.

Writing for the majority, Justice Michael Gableman blasted Schmitz’s conduct of the investigation and made a vigorous defense of political liberty. Here’s the key passage from the ruling:

It is utterly clear that the special prosecutor has employed theories of law that do not exist in order to investigate citizens who were wholly innocent of any wrongdoing. In other words, the special prosecutor was the instigator of a ‘perfect storm’ of wrongs that was visited upon the innocent Unnamed Movants and those who dared to associate with them. It is fortunate, indeed, for every other citizen of this great State who is interested in the protection of fundamental liberties that the special prosecutor chose as his targets innocent citizens who had both the will and the means to fight the unlimited resources of an unjust prosecution. Further, these brave individuals played a crucial role in presenting this court with an opportunity to re-endorse its commitment to upholding the fundamental right of each and every citizen to engage in lawful political activity and to do so free from the fear of the tyrannical retribution of arbitrary or capricious governmental prosecution. Let one point be clear: our conclusion today ends this unconstitutional John Doe investigation.(Emphasis added.)

Although Thursday’s ruling is a triumph for the First Amendment, a peculiar censorious instinct remains alive and well among Madison’s progressive elite. In dissent, Justice Shirley Abrahamson wrote her colleagues’ theme music ought to be “Anything Goes.

“The majority opinion adopts an unprecedented and faulty interpretation of Wisconsin’s campaign finance law and of the First Amendment,” Abrahamson wrote. “In doing so, the majority opinion delivers a significant blow to Wisconsin’s campaign finance law and to its paramount objectives of ‘stimulating vigorous campaigns on a fair and equal basis’ and providing for ‘a better informed electorate.'” It’s hard to see how pre-dawn raids and secret proceedings lead to “fair and equal” campaigns or a “better-informed” electorate, rather than a chilled political climate where dissenters from received partisan wisdom risk incurring the wrath of zealous prosecutors.

Wisconsin’s legislature is turning its attention to overhauling the state’s campaign-finance laws. In particular, some Republicans would like to do away with the “John Doe” provisions. Eliminating arbitrary and capricious rules from the statute books shouldn’t be a partisan matter. Wisconsin has seen what a political prosecution looks like. Avoiding a repeat of such abuses would seem to be a cause both parties could support.

January 5th, 2012 at 11:25 pm
Liberal Paper Smears Conservative Wisconsin Judge

In a case that should make conservatives stand up and take notice, and that merits (and later will receive from me) far more ink (or cyber ink) than this blog entry can provide, yet another liberal media organ, with yet another series of tendentious stories, is doing the work of the organized political left and the Democratic Party (but I repeat myself) by trying to rescue Wisconsin unions from duly passed laws reining in their abuses.

It’s a complicated story, but the semi-short version is this: In an absurd and perhaps unconstitutional attempt at strangling free political speech, organs of the Left brought ethics charges  in 2008 against newly elected Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, who had just defeated liberal hack Louis Butler in a hard-fought race. They had the temerity to accuse Gableman of lying about Butler during the campaign, and wanted an organ of the state to adjudge what was and wasn’t acceptable political speech — First Amendment be damned.

The charges failed, eventually, on a 3-3 vote at the state Supreme Court.

Later, last year, Gableman joined a narrow high court majority  ruling in favor of the constitutionality of the controversial new Wisconsin laws reining in the unions. The Left wants that ruling vacated — so they are going after Gableman again.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel suddenly is all hot to report that Gableman’s lawyer during the ethics trial back then worked on a contingency fee basis — in other words, that Gableman didn’t pay the lawyer out of his own pocket. Worse, Gableman later ruled in a number of cases in which the lawyer’s firm was of counsel, including some 4-3 decisions — and ruled in favor of the client of that firm.

Egads! Scandal! The way the Journal-Sentinel-House-Organ-of-Democrats has been playing the story in multiple articles, Gableman accepted a free “gift” in the form of the contingency fee agreement (the firm was never paid because the 3-3 tie vote on the ethics charge meant that Gableman didn’t actually “win” the case, and therefore the attorneys couldn’t collect). When Gableman then was faced with other cases involving the firm that had provided him a “gift,” he therefore was supposedly required to recuse himself.  Or so the paper’s biased coverage overwhelmingly suggests. And of course, it just so happens that one of those cases was the union case, which, by this logic, should be re-opened because of Gableman’s ghastly ethics.

What a nice, neat little package.

And what a crock of, uh, you know, rhymes with mitt.

To make its case, the Journal-Sentinal (pretending to be objective) turned for supposed legal-ethics expertise to Stephen Gillers, “a New York University Law School professor who specializes in legal ethics.” Never mind that Gillers is the same hack that the Left and establishment journalists (again, I repeat myself) trot out any time they need a “expert” to bash conservative legal ethics — because, of course, Gillers always somehow seems to come down in favor of whatever position benefits the political aims of liberals. How convenient.

But here’s the real kicker: How is it that a contingency fee arrangement is suddenly a “gift”? I thought the left, always in hock to the plaintiffs’ bar, loved contingency fee arrangements! That’s what gets the jackpots that are used to fund a huge part of the Left’s political apparatus. Is every plaintiff represented through a contingency-fee arrangement getting a “gift”? Of course not. As Viet Dinh, Gableman’s NEW lawyer, wrote in a letter to the editor that the Journal-Sentinel has conveniently refused to publish (although it did selectively quote from the letter in a “news” story), “Justice Gableman has the same fundamental right to representation as any other individual, and there is nothing improper or unethical about acquiring legal representation through a contingency fee agreement…. The inaccuracies are so persistent, and their pattern against Justice Gableman so consistent, that one unfortunately must consider editorial and journalistic bias.”

WAIT: There’s more. This is rich. It now turns out that a clearly left-leaning Judge in Wisconsin, the Hon. John Siefert, sued the Wisconsin Judicial Commission over a different issue in 2008. And guess what: Siefert did so under a contingency fee arrangement!! One waits with bated breath to see if the Journal-Sentinel will now run a series of “news” articles asking if Siefert improperly took a “gift.”

One will probably wait forever, and one’s breath will remain bated.