Posts Tagged ‘Wisconsin’

Finally! Wisconsin Gov. Walker signs John Doe reform

And some political liberals, though it is not clear why they should deserve that honorable name, are sad that Wisconsin officials can no longer use the law so freely to raid opponents’ homes at dawn or gag them from talking to the press [background, more; Watchdog, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, New York Times] More: WSJ editorial, paywall, via Tim Lynch, Cato:

The Milwaukee District Attorney’s office, run by Democrat John Chisholm, sent GAB staff a spreadsheet of search terms [for rifling seized electronic archives] that included prominent national conservatives….The government snoops created ideological search concepts like “big union bosses” and “big government,” as if such phrases suggest some law-breaking intent. Recall that when the IRS targeted conservative groups for special vetting, it created a “Be On the Lookout” list of key words such as “patriot” and “tea party.”

“Wisconsin’s ‘John Doe’ Raids Two Years Later”

Caleb Brown interviews Eric O’Keefe on the abusive Wisconsin John Doe prosecution of alleged unlawful campaign coordination, much covered in this space. O’Keefe says the growing scope of campaign regulation allows wider scope for the law to be used to harass and persecute outsiders and minority viewpoints, and also speculates as to why the prosecution has not been subject to more intense scrutiny in the press: “The prosecutors have cultivated relationships over a long period of time with the newspapers. Prosecutors get a lot of good stories first, like who they’re going to indict, who got arrested…so the newspapers tend to pander to prosecutors and together they have extremely powerful weapons.” Emails from the Wisconsin John Doe targets’ private accounts, for example, scooped up by prosecutors’ secret subpoenas, later surfaced in stories in the newspapers putting the targets in a bad light.

September 23 roundup

Wisconsin investigates grocery for pricing too low

The idea of minimum price regulations saw its American heyday during the New Deal, where it was a prime component of FDR’s National Recovery Administration. And the 1935 Supreme Court decision striking down the NRA as unconstitutional didn’t affect state laws like the one that has gotten Grand Rapids-based grocery chain Meijer in trouble for allegedly pricing its goods too low [Michigan Live]:

“Wisconsin is among 16 states with minimum markup laws that have price protections for retailers, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“This is a bit peculiar for us, we are not accustomed to regulations that limit our customers’ ability to save money when they shop with us,” Guglielmi said.

More: K. William Watson, Cato (“While state laws like Wisconsin’s Unfair Sales Act are relatively rare, the federal government relies on the same bad economics to justify the U.S. antidumping law, which imposes punitive tariffs on imports sold below ‘fair value.'”).

Politics roundup

  • Prohibition triple threat: Sen. Marco Rubio would “crack down on marijuana if elected President,” cites “damage” alcohol is doing America and is foe of online gambling too;
  • An ever-so-sympathetic take on invading/disrupting other people’s political events, and don’t even ask what the press coverage would be like if Tea Partiers were doing this to anyone;
  • Hey, I didn’t meet with a lobbyist! It was a…strategic consultant, yeah, that’s it [Crain’s New York last year]
  • Ideology matters: Democrats still more likely than Republicans to support rural subsidies even though they now represent few rural areas [David Henderson]
  • Wisconsin John Doe investigator: “No one is going to know what you and I talk about today.” Uh-huh [Right Wisconsin]
  • Jack Shafer on Trump’s appeal [Politico] “Trump Lawyer Bragged: I ‘Destroyed’ a Beauty Queen’s Life” [Tim Mak/The Daily Beast, earlier, more]
  • Harry Reid raises $1 million from trial lawyers after flying to fundraiser on one of their private jets [Politico]

Medical roundup

  • Scorecards on complication rates and outcomes may reveal little about who’s a bad doctor since best docs sometimes take hardest cases [Saurabh Jha, KevinMD] “Anatomy of error: a surgeon remembers his mistakes” [The New Yorker]
  • When parents and doctors don’t agree, are allegations of “medical child abuse” levied too liberally? [Maxine Eichner, New York Times; Lenore Skenazy, see also “medical kidnapping” links]
  • ABA’s Standing Committee on Medical Professional Liability derailed in bid for House of Delegates resolution endorsing unlimited punitive damages in product liability [Drug & Device Law first, second, third posts]
  • Wisconsin repeals medical whistleblower law [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel]
  • “Politically Driven Unionization Threatens In-Home Care” [David Osborne, IBD]
  • Ninth Circuit upholds Washington state regulations forcing family pharmacy to dispense morning-after pills [The Becket Fund]
  • Pathologist who frequently diagnosed shaken baby syndrome loses Montana role [Missoulian]

Wisconsin Supreme Court strikes down John Doe II probe

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has struck down the notorious secret prosecution of conservative political figures in the state, the implementation of which included dawn paramilitary raids at the homes of aides to Gov. Scott Walker and leaders of private advocacy groups. Two justices on the seven-member court dissented from key elements of the ruling and one did not participate. From the court’s opinion:

The special prosecutor has disregarded the vital principle that in our nation and our state political speech is a fundamental right and is afforded the highest level of protection. The special prosecutor’s theories, rather than “assur[ing] [the] unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and social changes desired by the people,” Roth, 354 U.S. at 484, instead would assure that such political speech will be investigated with paramilitary-style home invasions conducted in the pre-dawn hours and then prosecuted and punished.


Our lengthy discussion of these three cases can be distilled into a few simple, but important, points. 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.

Coverage and commentary: Roger Pilon/Cato; Gabriel Malor. The conservative Wisconsin Watchdog has provided extensive coverage in more than 200 stories.

Last year I described the conduct of the prosecution in the case as “stunningly abusive” and wrote:

The citizens of Wisconsin must now demand a full accounting of how these raids could have happened. They should also insist on changes in state law, in particular the “John Doe” law, aimed at ensuring that nothing like them ever happens again.

In dissent, former chief justice Shirley Abrahamson writes that the constitutionality of the search methods used was not under review in the cases at hand. Well known election law academic Rick Hasen laments that the ruling endorses the version of events of Walker aides concerning the raids without a full legal airing, although (he writes) the charges of abusive conduct during the raids were “never fully verified” and are part of a set of “fears which generally do not stand up to scrutiny.” (To be clear about what was going on, the aides in question appear to have been gagged by a court order throughout, though someone on their side appears to have succeeded in eventually conveying the story to the Wall Street Journal and other outlets).

Another reaction yesterday, from a well-known advocacy shop in Washington, D.C., might be summed up as follows: “We need 500 words on the Wisconsin John Doe dismissal, but don’t mention the dawn paramilitary raids or the gag orders.” “OK, can do.

Related: Ilya Shapiro says a petition for certiorari by former Walker aide Kelly Rindfleisch “provides an excellent vehicle for the U.S. Supreme Court to address the degree to which the Fourth Amendment requires a warrant for searching electronic data, tailored to probable cause.”

Free speech roundup

  • March of “cyberbullying” law continues: “New Zealand passes law making it punishable by fine or jail time for “causing emotional distress” on the Internet [The Register]
  • Wisconsin John Doe prosecutors tapped email and text communications of conservative activists, also got bank records [M.D. Kittle, Wisconsin Watchdog]
  • Rare instance where pro-speech, anti-harass groups agree: ICANN shouldn’t zap site-owner privacy [Online Abuse Prevention Initiative via @sarahjeong] More: Cathy Gellis, Popehat;
  • “Researcher Headed To Australian Supreme Court In Attempt To Hold Google Responsible For Posts At Ripoff Reports” [Tim Cushing, TechDirt]
  • When you vigorously deny an accusation, do you defame the accuser as a liar? [Popehat on Bill Cosby litigation]
  • “They do this because they can.” [Mark Steyn on Preet Bharara’s “prosecutocracy” and the Reason subpoena, earlier here, here, etc.]
  • Remember, badspeak can be evidence of wrongthink: “[London Mayor] Boris Johnson ‘could be breaching sex discrimination laws’ for defending Sir Tim Hunt over sexism row” [Independent]

Schools roundup

Free speech roundup

  • Yikes: Granby, Quebec, “moves to fine people insulting police on social media” [CBC]
  • “Plaintiffs in foreign ‘hate speech’ lawsuit seeking to subpoena records from U.S. service providers” [Eugene Volokh] Visa for Dutch politician Geert Wilders aside, Reps. Keith Ellison and André Carson imply they’d like to limit speech for Americans too [same]
  • “Why The D.C. Circuit’s Anti-SLAPP Ruling Is Important” [Popehat]
  • Federal court strikes down Pennsylvania law allowing “re-victimization” suits for “renewed anguish” against convicts who speak about their crimes [Volokh, earlier]
  • How different are judges? Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar marks an exception in Court’s preference for speech over regulation in campaign cases [SCOTUSBlog symposium, Elizabeth Price Foley/Instapundit, Daniel Fisher, Ilya Shapiro, our coverage of judicial elections]
  • “New Jersey’s Sensitive Victim Bias Crime Unconstitutional” [Scott Greenfield]
  • Amazing: Wisconsin John Doe prosecutor suggests criminally charging Gov. Scott Walker over remarks critical of probe [Journal-Sentinel, Volokh; more at Cato, Roger Pilon and Tim Lynch; earlier from me here, etc.]