Gov. Scott Walker on Friday signed legislation that prohibits prosecutors from using secret John Doe investigations to review allegations of political corruption and misconduct of public officials.

The bill, which passed the Senate and the Assembly along party lines this week, comes after two John Doe probes of Walker, his campaign and his aides. Walker was never charged.

The first investigation began with his time as Milwaukee County executive and yielded six convictions of Walker aides, while the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a 4-2 decision earlier this summer halted the second, saying it wasn’t based in law.

The law puts a six-month limit on John Doe proceedings, which can be extended if a majority of state chief judges agree. Under the new legislation, prosecutors can still use John Doe proceedings to investigate drug-related felonies and violent crimes.

Republicans argued this week that grand jury proceedings, which are used in other states and in the federal court system, would be a more transparent process of investigating allegations of political misconduct, including campaign finance violations and campaigning on government time.

But Democrats said getting rid of the John Doe investigation option for those in public office was treating elected officials differently from the rest of the public, and without a such a process to investigate allegations of misconduct, corruption would go unchecked.


Molly Beck covers politics and state government for the Wisconsin State Journal.