MILWAUKEE (CN) - Investigators behind a secret corruption probe in Wisconsin have no right to keep evidence they gathered, the state's Republican attorney general has argued.
Attorney General Brad Schimel makes the claim in a friend-of-the-court brief filed Friday on behalf of a political aide suing the investigators who targeted her as part of a so-called John Doe investigation into compliance with campaign-finance laws.
Shortly after Cynthia Archer, a onetime aide to Gov. Scott Walker, filed the lawsuit, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ended the investigation and ordered all documents obtained during searches destroyed or returned to the high court under seal.
The latter move prompted objections from the investigators. In support of a December 2015 motion for evidence preservation, the investigators said the court's orders will kill any chance of defending themselves against Archer's civil claims.
"The court has before it an extraordinary circumstance in which lifelong law enforcement personnel have been portrayed in court opinions and the media as lawless thugs for investigating and seeking to enforce the laws as they existed," the brief states. "The partisan-fueled maelstrom has resulted in orders from the Wisconsin Supreme Court that not only prevent a public response to those disparagements, but also take from the Investigator Defendants the evidence relevant to their conduct and investigations."
Schimel's amicus brief Friday calls the motion a "collateral attack" on the authority of state courts, saying the investigators have no right to documents that the Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered sealed.
"Such a grave affront to the Wisconsin judiciary is also entirely unnecessary," Schimel's brief states. "The investigator defendants retain the same rights as any defendant in a federal civil rights lawsuit: they can seek to obtain relevant information lawfully, through discovery processes open to all litigants." (Italics in original.)
In a statement on the state's involvement, Schimel claimed that the investigators made their "highly unusual request" to "retain many documents that they were never lawfully entitled to possess, given that such documents were seized from citizens that the Wisconsin Supreme Court has found were wholly innocent of any wrongdoing."
Archer, the Walker aide behind the lawsuit, claims investigators stormed her house early in the morning, threw a search warrant in her face and rifled through her personal belongings, before she or her partner had a chance to dress.
An audio recording of the raid contradicted some of these claims, however, showing that investigators read the warrant to Archer and let her get coffee and smoke a cigarette.
The search was performed as part of the secret John Doe II investigation into alleged campaign finance violations by Walker and his team, who were accused of illegally coordinating with outside special interest groups for the 2012 gubernatorial election.
Archer is represented by David Rivkin Jr. with Baker Hostetler out of Washington, D.C.
Assistant Attorney General Clayton Kawski signed AG Schimel's brief
The investigators, which include Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm, are represented by Michael Russart with Milwaukee-based Hinshaw & Culbertson.
U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman presides over the case.