George Will, hard-hitting but on target, on what happened to people who took the wrong side of the Wisconsin public-employee wars:
The early-morning paramilitary-style raids on citizens’ homes were conducted by law enforcement officers, sometimes wearing bulletproof vests and lugging battering rams, pounding on doors and issuing threats. Spouses were separated as the police seized computers, including those of children still in pajamas. Clothes drawers, including the children’s, were ransacked, cellphones were confiscated and the citizens were told that it would be a crime to tell anyone of the raids.
Earlier on the Wisconsin John Doe raids, including this Cato piece. More Will:
Chisholm’s aim — to have a chilling effect on conservative speech — has been achieved by bombarding Walker supporters with raids and subpoenas: Instead of raising money to disseminate their political speech, conservative individuals and groups, harassed and intimidated, have gone into a defensive crouch, raising little money and spending much money on defensive litigation. Liberal groups have not been targeted for their activities that are indistinguishable from those of their conservative counterparts.
Such misbehavior takes a toll on something that already is in short supply: belief in government’s legitimacy. The federal government’s most intrusive and potentially punitive institution, the IRS, unquestionably worked for Barack Obama’s reelection by suppressing activities by conservative groups. … Would the race between Walker and Democrat Mary Burke be as close as it is if a process susceptible to abuse had not been so flagrantly abused to silence groups on one side of Wisconsin’s debate? Surely not.
For those of you following the politicized Wisconsin John Doe prosecution — which basically is premised on the idea that even issue advocacy is criminal if coordinated among the wrong people — this report from veteran legal analyst Stuart Taylor, Jr. is pretty amazing. [Legal NewsLine, my two cents from May, more]
More: Ann Althouse parses the response of John Chisholm’s lawyer.
All-Ferguson edition, including my CNBC exchange last Friday, above:
- Typically good John Stossel column [Washington Examiner, syndicated, and thanks for mention] Disturbing innovations coming our way in the world of crowd/protest control include “puke cannons,” “pain rays” [Gene Healy, Washington Examiner, ditto]
- Cause of death: failure to comply with police orders [David M. Perry, opinion] “Here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you” [Sunil Dutta (L.A.P.D. officer), Washington Post; Ken at Popehat]
- “Expect Many, Many Lawsuits From Ferguson” [Chris Geidner, BuzzFeed]
- Not the safe conventional move: I’m quoted on Sen. Rand Paul’s willingness to grapple with Ferguson [Politico]
- Local commercial economies take a long time to recover from damage done by looting [Kate Rogers/Fox Business, thanks for quote]]
- Political economy: unusual state of representation in Ferguson makes the town an outlier [Seth Masket, Pacific Standard] Police-driven budget? “Ferguson receives nearly one-quarter of its revenue from court fees” [Jeff Smith, NY Times]
- According to Victor Davis Hanson, we critics of police militarization have “empowered [radical groups] to commit violence” [NRO]
- “What I Did After a Cop Killed My Son” [Michael Bell, Politico, Kenosha, Wisc.; civilian review]
- “Why Are There No News Helicopters Over Ferguson?” [Peter Suderman]
“The Wisconsin Supreme Court has upheld the 2011 law that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers, sparked massive protests and led to Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s recall election and rise to national prominence.” “Collective bargaining remains a creation of legislative grace and not constitutional obligation,” wrote Justice Michael Gableman for a 5-2 majority. [AP, more] Last year, despite appeals from labor unions and their allies, Wisconsin voters for a second time declined to unseat an incumbent member of the court accused of insufficient sympathy for union goals.
And a Kenosha, Wis. dad says that’s what it took to get some relief from the school on his complaints that his daughter was being attacked and bullied by one of her kindergarten classmates. A school spokeswoman “said there are two sides to every story, but she couldn’t talk about specifics.” Depending on whether, e.g., health privacy laws happen to apply in the situation, it might be true as a legal proposition that she couldn’t talk about specifics. [Fox 11 Online]
The syndicated columnist praises Judge Rudolph Randa’s
remarkably emphatic ruling against an especially egregious example of Democrats using government power to suppress conservatives’ political speech.
Wisconsin’s sordid episode began, appropriately, with a sound of tyranny — fists pounding on the doors of private citizens in pre-dawn raids. While sheriff’s deputies used floodlights to illuminate the citizens’ homes, armed raiders seized documents, computers, cellphones and other devices.
Earlier here, here, etc.
And two Republican Wisconsin lawmakers are calling for a thorough review into the activities of the state Government Accountability Board, which “oversees Wisconsin campaign and election laws,” and whose contracted investigator, Dean Nickel, is reported to have played a role in setting in motion the process which resulted in the investigation of dozens of conservative organizations. [M.D. Kittle, Wisconsin Reporter/Watchdog.org] More: Milwaukee Federalist Society chapter roundup of coverage.
A federal judge has quashed the stunningly abusive “John Doe” proceedings that had resulted in midnight raids on the homes of leading conservative activists across the state. I’ve got more in a new Cato post; fuller coverage at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Watchdog.org (and series), and the decision itself is here. Earlier coverage here, here, and here. I conclude:
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.
Update: Seventh Circuit panel stays ruling pending appeal.
Caleb Brown interviews me for this new Cato podcast on a knotty question: when should a state attorney general decline to argue in court in defense of a law he thinks unconstitutional? On the one hand, the legal profession’s norms strongly favor giving every client and cause its day in court, and practical dysfunction might result were cases routinely handed over to others to defend or dropped entirely. On the other hand, attorneys general like other officials take an oath of office to the constitution, which calls in doubt whether they should (or even may) use their skills on behalf of unconstitutional measures. Complicating matters: how should unconstitutionality be assessed, by way of the AG’s own judgment, by way of predicting how the highest relevant court would rule, or by some other method? What kind of difference should it make whether the assessment appears certain, very probable, or more ambiguous than that?
In recent weeks about a half-dozen Democratic AGs around the country have declined to defend their states’ bans on same-sex marriage, on the grounds that they are inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision of last year, while other AGs both Republican and Democratic have argued in defense of those laws. (Today, Kentucky’s attorney general announced that he will not appeal a federal court ruling requiring the state to recognize out-of-state marriages, although the state’s governor is stepping in to do so.) Finding either liberals or conservatives who have preserved entirely consistent positions on the issue, though, is not always easy. Former attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, a strong conservative, declined to defend a state education reform law last year, while in 2011 Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen declined to defend a state domestic partnership registry they deemed unconstitutional. In a case like the latter it was liberals who tended to criticize the refusal to defend a law, and conservatives who applauded — patterns that to some extent have been reversed this time around.