Walker (copy)

Gov. Scott Walker's campaign is at the center of a state John Doe investigation whose future will be decided by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. 

Associated Press

Just three days after Gov. Scott Walker announced his candidacy for president, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is expected to determine whether a probe into his 2012 recall campaign can resume. 

The court said on Tuesday it will release rulings on Thursday in three cases that will likely determine whether a John Doe investigation into whether Walker's campaign illegally coordinated with conservative groups in 2011 and 2012 can continue.

The investigation, launched by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm in 2012, was put on hold more than a year ago.

A prior John Doe investigation, also launched by Chisholm, resulted in convictions for six Walker associates during his time as Milwaukee County executive.

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Conservatives have decried the second investigation as a partisan witch hunt that has effectively silenced political groups from exercising free speech.

The state's John Doe law dates back to Wisconsin's days as a territory and is unique to the state. It allows a prosecutor, under supervision of a judge, to investigate whether a crime has been committed and, if so, who committed it. The prosecutor can compel people to testify and turn over documents.

John Doe investigations are often conducted in secrecy. Both witnesses and targets are prevented from talking about the investigation with anyone but their attorney.

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Jessie Opoien covers state government and politics for the Capital Times. She joined the Cap Times in 2013 and has also covered Madison life, race relations, culture and music. She has also covered education and politics for the Oshkosh Northwestern.