New Developments in Wisconsin’s John Doe Investigations

Free Speech & Election Law Practice Group

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Between 2010 and 2013, a team of Wisconsin state officials assembled by the Milwaukee County District Attorney, and later involving the state’s Government Accountability Board, targeted the activities of certain groups who had supported Governor Scott Walker’s policy agenda. The probes seized millions of emails, bank records, hard copy documents, and other materials through a combination of electronic search warrants, subpoenas, and raids that used controversial tactics. Litigation in the Wisconsin state courts froze the John Doe investigations in early 2014. The Wisconsin Supreme Court ultimately terminated the investigations in the summer of 2015. In reaction, the Wisconsin legislature passed sweeping reforms of its campaign finance and criminal laws, eliminating the Government Accountability Board, changing John Doe rules, and fixing secrecy laws so that they restrained the prosecutors, not the targets. But there were new developments eight weeks ago: Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel issued a report following an investigation he initiated when, in September 2016, the British Guardian published approximately 1,400 pages of seized witness emails and draft court filings prepared by the prosecution team. Schimel found that a trove of evidence at the Government Accountability Board offices may have been leaked, and promised to institute contempt proceedings against prosecutors and other state officials. As a result, new individuals have learned that their materials were seized and reviewed during the original investigation. Some existing litigation may be impacted, and new litigation may occur. Find out what’s next.


Mr. Edward D. Greims, Partner, Graves Garrett, LLC 


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