Will Any DA Appeal High Court John Doe Ruling?
Court “fires” chief prosecutor, Democracy Campaign calls on other prosecutors to appeal decision
Two days after the Wisconsin Supreme Court essentially fired the lead John Doe II prosecutor Francis Schmitz, a watchdog group has called on other prosecutors to take his place. The court had already shut down the Doe probe, but has now ruled that Schmitz, who intended to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, was never legally appointed a Doe prosecutor, meaning he may not have standing to appeal the high court decision.
Matthew Rothschild, executive director of the nonpartisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign has sent a letter to five Wisconsin district attorneys who were also involved in the John Doe case, asking them to step in and appeal the high court decision.
“To let this dangerous State Supreme Court decision stand without challenge would do a grave disservice to the people of Wisconsin you represent,” Rothschild said in the letter. “Since this case has profound significance not only for the John Doe but for the integrity of our campaign finance system, I urge you to step up and take this on.”
The latest Wisconsin Supreme Court decision was “not meant to interfere with the ability of the prosecution team to seek Supreme Court review,” the court declared, The court invited five district attorneys who have had some involvement with the case to take over for Schmitz.
Rothschild sent the letter yesterday to those prosecutors: Columbia County DA Jane Kohlwey, Dane County DA Ismael Ozanne, Dodge County DA Kurt F. Klomberg, Iowa County DA Larry E. Nelson and Milwaukee County DA, John Chisholm who initiated the probe and has been a particular focus of conservative opponents of the decision.
In his letter Rothschild outlines grounds for the appeal as; failure of judges to recuse themselves, a blatant misreading of campaign finance precedents and ignoring evidence of potentially illegal express advocacy coordination.
The letter indicates the four member majority of the State Supreme which wrote the decision shutting down the Doe probe benefitted from $8 million in election expenditures spent on their elections by the Wisconsin Club for Growth and the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, two groups that the John Doe probe was investigating. Schmitz had asked two of the justices to recuse themselves because of a conflict of interest but they declined.
The the second John Doe investigation had been launched in 2012 and the judge who oversaw the investigation, Gregory Peterson, had overseen the appointment of Schmitz. But the supreme court ruled the appointment was improper because special prosecutors are allowed to be appointed only in certain circumstances, such as when the district attorney has a conflict of interest.
“I am disappointed,” Schmitz said in a statement in response to the high court ruling. “I continue to believe that the investigation was justified. The voters of Wisconsin have a right to know the identity of large donors, corporate and individual, which coordinate with campaign committees.”
Schmitz said he had underestimated “the power and influence special interest groups have in Wisconsin politics. My career in the military and as a federal prosecutor fighting violent criminals and terrorists did not fully prepare me for the tactics employed by these special interest groups.”
Schmitz said that “if I have the resources, (I) intend to pursue an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court,” but some legal observers say that may be difficult. Chisholm and the other four DAs who were also involved in the case have so far had no comment about the high court decision or Rothschild’s call for them to appeal the case.