Friday, April 11, 2014

Wisconsin Civil-Rights March : Prosecutors targeting conservatives lose in federal court.

The Wall Street Journal reports:
Score another one for free political speech. On Tuesday, Federal District Judge Rudolph Randa soundly rejected a motion to dismiss a federal civil-rights lawsuit against Wisconsin prosecutors who are investigating the political activities of conservative groups (but not liberals).

In a 19-page ruling, Judge Randa wrote that Wisconsin Club for Growth Director Eric O'Keefe's claim that the unlawful investigation violates his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights may proceed. Mr. O'Keefe has standing to bring the lawsuit because "chilled speech is, unquestionably, an injury supporting standing" and that claim doesn't depend on whether he is charged with a crime; "the threat of prosecution is enough."

Prosecutors argued that the federal suit couldn't proceed under the 1971 Supreme Court ruling in Younger v. Harris, which prevents federal courts from intervening in a criminal prosecution. That precedent doesn't apply here, Judge Randa wrote, because the state's secretive John Doe proceeding is not a prosecution but "an investigatory device, similar to a grand jury proceeding, but lacking the oversight of a jury."

The Younger exemption also does not apply, the judge added, when the plaintiffs allege that the prosecution was "brought in bad faith for the purpose of retaliating for or deterring the exercise of constitutionally protected rights." Mr. O'Keefe's claim easily satisfies that requirement with its assertion that the John Doe investigation into possible campaign finance violations has been selectively used as a "pretext" to target conservative groups and deter their political engagement.
Is a racketeering enterprise?