March 4, 2008
Taylor Praises Senate Passage of John Doe Bill
MADISON – On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Senate passed what has come to be known as the John Doe bill (SB537) to remedy costly problems that have been tying up courts and ultimately making it harder for judges and prison officials to do their jobs. Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee), one of the bill’s five Senate authors, applauded the vote and urged the Assembly to take up the measure as soon as possible.
“The current situation requires judges to waste valuable time on frivolous cases that have no merit,” said Senator Taylor, “yet force prison officials and the court system to go through a lengthy and costly process.”
SB 537 allows judges to use some discretion in determining if a crime has been committed rather than being required to order the district attorney to issue a warrant in every single John Doe proceeding brought to the judge by members of the public. Prison inmates are frequent users of this procedure and whenever such a case goes to court, prison officials must take time from their workdays to attend. The heavy load of these cases is expensive and slows down workings of the court.
With SB537, the judge will have discretion over the scope of the examination and may make a criminal complaint if he/she finds sufficient evidence to warrant prosecution. This bill specifies that a judge may consider law enforcement investigative reports, records, and case files of the district attorney and any other written records.
“Now it’s time for the Assembly to do their job and pass their version of this bill,” Senator Taylor said. “The court system is overburdened enough and we need to give them some relief, so they can deal with the real problems of getting crime off our streets.”