By M.D. Kittle, Wisconsin Watchdog.org
Last week we tried to imagine how miserable journalism school must be nowadays, given the astonishing degree of self-restraint necessary for the major media to not notice stories that would have had reporters climbing over one another, elbows flying, as recently as—well okay, maybe not so recently—before the Reagan presidency.
That silence is deafening among the left’s best friend, the mainstream media.
The left has remained silent about Justice Shirley Abrahamson’s open records games.
Abrahamson has hired an attorney to defend her in the records request filed by conservative targets of Wisconsin’s unconstitutional John Doe investigation.
That’s the same investigation into dozens of conservative groups and the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker that Abrahamson as chief justice helped administratively put in motion.
It was, according to court documents, Abrahamson who appointed reserve Judge Barbara Kluka to serve as the probe’s presiding judge. Kluka suddenly recused herself in October 2013, not long after signing off on the warrants and subpoenas that fathered the predawn, paramilitary-style raids on the homes and offices of several John Doe targets and the search and seizure of millions of documents. Those subpoenas were eventually quashed by Kluka’s successor, who found no evidence of illegal activity on the part of the targets.
But the state Supreme Court found plenty wrong with the John Doe investigation. In July, the court found the probe “without reason or law.” Abrahamson wrote the dissenting opinion in the 4-2 ruling.
“My attorneys have requested information about Justice Abrahamson’s communications with other people involved in the John Doe (investigation), to determine the extent of her involvement in the planning and execution of this assault on our civil rights,” said Eric O’Keefe, long-time conservative activist and one of many targets of the probe.
“Instead of complying with our request, Justice Abrahamson is using taxpayer money to hire an attorney to assist her,” added O’Keefe, who has sued the investigation’s prosecutors for violating the constitutional rights of Wisconsin residents.
O’Keefe and his Wisconsin Club for Growth, one of 29 conservative groups targeted, filed the open records request with Abrahamson’s office nearly two months ago. They continue to wait for a response.
O’Keefe said Abrahamson directed that Kluka be named John Doe judge at the “request of her political ally, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm.”
Abrahamson, in a letter to O’Keefe’s attorney, described the records request as “broadly stated.” She insisted that she must alert all of the parties who may be affected by the release of information. She cannot seek advice from Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel because of a possible conflict of interest, Abrahamson asserts.
The AG’s office represents several state defendants in the federal lawsuit Abrahamson recently brought. The justice sued the state after the passage of a constitutional amendment that ended up costing Abrahamson her long-time position as chief justice. She lost. She is appealing that federal court ruling.
“Is it plausible that Justice Abrahamson did this without any idea of the purpose of this supposedly secret John Doe? We may learn that the one justice who really needed to recuse herself from the John Doe cases was Justice Abrahamson,” O’Keefe told Wisconsin Watchdog in August.
The open records request seeks records of communications between Abrahamson and employees of the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office, Kluka and former director of state courts John Voelker between Jan. 1, 2012 to the present.
The conservatives are particularly interested in records of communications and meetings between the justice and any employees of the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office — including Chisholm, a Democrat, and assistant district attorneys David Robles and Bruce Landgraf.
“Justice Abrahamson has long been a favorite of the Democratic legislators and leaders in Wisconsin,” O’Keefe said. “What do they think about her participating in a John Doe investigation that was ‘without foundation in reason or law?”
“What do they think of her declining to recuse herself from a John Doe investigation launched by a John Doe Judge she named to the position?”
“What do they think of her refusing to comply with an open records request?”
There has been only silence from the left on this transparency issue.