Judge Randa Issues Second Order, Again Halting John Doe Probe

Evidence Collected By Investigators Will Remain


U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa issued a second order blocking the John Doe investigation involving conservative groups and Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign on Thursday.

Randa issued his first order blocking the John Doe on Tuesday, saying that the investigation endangered the First Amendment rights of conservative groups that supported Walker in the recall. A day later, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago blocked Randa’s order, saying he broke procedural rules when he issued an injunction even though defendants had filed a notice of appeal.

The only way Randa could do properly halt the investigation, the Appeals Court wrote, was if he found the appeal to be “frivolous.” That’s what Randa did in Thursday’s order, once again putting the John Doe on hold.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Marquette University law professor and former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske says it’s an unusual case and an unusual step by Randa.

“It’s pretty rare that a judge finds that something lawyers have done is frivolous,” said Geske. “Judge Randa obviously feels very strongly about this case.”

University of Wisconsin Law Professor Ben Kempinen says it’s the first case he’s ever seen where a federal judge has intervened in a state investigation before charges are even filed.

“We have one federal judge basically telling law enforcement – DAs acting as law enforcement – that you can’t even investigate alleged criminal behavior.”

Judge Randa’s order today was not a carbon copy of his earlier ruling. On Tuesday, he ordered all evidence collected in the John Doe be immediately destroyed. The Court of Appeals said Randa could not do that since it could render moot some or all of the issues on appeal. Judges said such an order would be off limits for as long as the case was before them.