In a ruling this morning, the Wisconsin Supreme Court rendered official what observers have long known: Wisconsin Democrats did, in fact, launch a massive, multi-county “John Doe” investigation of the state’s conservatives, featuring extraordinarily broad subpoenas and coordinated “paramilitary” raids of private homes; the “crimes” that provided the investigation’s pretext were not crimes at all, but First Amendment-protected speech; and the legal theory underpinning the investigation was bunk, “unsupported in either reason or law,” as the court put it. …
The court was obviously disturbed:
The breadth of the documents gathered pursuant to subpoenas and seized pursuant to search warrants is amazing. Millions of documents, both in digital and paper copy, were subpoenaed and/or seized. Deputies seized business papers, computer equipment, phones, and other devices, while their targets were restrained under police supervision and denied the ability to contact their attorneys. … As part of this dragnet, the special prosecutor also had seized wholly irrelevant information, such as retirement income statements, personal financial account information, personal letters, and family photos.
The John Doe-related legal proceedings are far from over. Already, raid victims have filed lawsuits against the prosecutors, alleging systematic and intentional violations of their civil rights. Further litigation is likely. Yet no amount of money can compensate the victims for the moments of sheer terror and the months of deep anxiety that followed the John Doe raids.