MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Prosecutors asked a federal appeals court on Thursday to allow an investigation into Republican Gov. Scott Walker and other conservative groups to proceed while they appeal an order that halted the probe.
Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and special prosecutor Francis Schmitz filed separate motions Wednesday and Thursday making the request with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. They are seeking a stay in last week’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa that temporarily stopped the investigation focused on possible illegal campaign coordination between various campaigns, including Walker’s, and conservative groups.
The investigation has shadowed Walker for more than two years as he runs for re-election against presumed Democratic candidate Mary Burke and considers a run for president in 2016. While his opponents have tried to use the investigation against Walker, the first-term Republican has said he’s trying to remain focused on his job as governor.
Randa’s ruling, which was favorable to Walker and other targets of the investigation, said the probe was a breach of free-speech rights. Chisholm’s attorney, in the Thursday court filing, argued that Randa’s ruling was unprecedented, unwarranted, misguided and incorrectly denied prosecutors an ability to make their arguments in court.
Prosecutors had previously appealed Randa’s ruling to the 7th Circuit. In their filings this week prosecutors asked that his order be put on hold and that he not be allowed to take any other action in the case while their appeal is pending.
The federal appeals court gave Wisconsin Club for Growth and director Eric O’Keefe, who brought the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the investigation, until May 28 to respond to the request for a stay. Deadlines for attorneys to file briefs in the underlying appeal stretch through the end of July, and a final decision may not come until after the November election.
Randa is separately considering whether to make public dozens of pages of documents in the investigation. Both prosecutors and Wisconsin Club for Growth on Wednesday asked Randa to release the documents.
Both sides said in court filings that there is no reason for secrecy any longer because so much is known about the investigation that began nearly two years ago, shortly after Walker won a recall election.
Five journalism groups initially asked for the documents to be released. On Wednesday, lawyers for two unidentified people asked Randa if they could intervene to keep portions of the documents private.
The investigation, known as a John Doe, focused on allegations of illegal coordination between conservative groups, Walker’s campaign and others during recall elections in 2011 and 2012.