State Senator Van Wanggaard's eNewsletter 2015
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Taking the Politics out of John Doe Laws


On Wednesday, August 26, I released the following article on how our John Doe reform bill takes politics out of John Doe Laws and protects constitutional rights.

Wisconsin’s John Doe laws are a very powerful investigatory tool. John Doe investigations are by definition secretive, and can be far-reaching. They are open-ended and can be used to investigate any crime. The right to free speech and right to counsel are limited. In its review of the recent John Doe investigation, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals raised constitutional concerns about the process.

As a former police officer and investigator, I have participated in and used Wisconsin’s John Doe laws to solve crimes. With this first-hand experience, I can honestly say that I probably have more familiarity with the John Doe process than any other legislator. While some argue that concerns with the John Doe require it be abolished, I disagree.  This is a powerful tool that can be used to solve crimes that might otherwise go unsolved and needs to be preserved. However, recent abuses of the law clearly show that the process can, and should, be improved to protect constitutional rights.

The most obvious constitutional issue with John Does involves the secrecy, which also raised the eyebrows of the 7th Circuit judges. Of course, it’s easier to get information by telling someone not to say anything and promising secrecy when you’re seeking information.  Add the threat of jail or contempt of court, and it’s not only more effective, it’s intimidating. But the First Amendment right to speech, especially speaking to defend yourself, or about our government, needs to have the highest protection. A person should be able to defend him or herself against government allegations. It’s their fundamental right. That’s why the John Doe reform bill (SB 43) that my colleagues and I have presented places no limits on witnesses to a John Doe proceeding – only district attorneys and court personnel are subject to secrecy – much like every lawyer’s duty of confidentiality.

A person’s Sixth Amendment rights, which protect the rights of defendants, are just as important. The recent John Doe was ongoing for two years, sprung from a John Doe that was in effect for three years. Five years of secrecy is difficult to justify as the “speedy and public trial” guaranteed by the Constitution...


 Breaking The Deadlock On The School Board 


As many of you have heard, the Racine School Board has been struggling to fill a seat which has been vacant since Lisa Parham resigned more than two months ago. With the committee stuck in a deadlock and no resolution in sight, a lot of folks are asking what happens next. Unfortunately, state statute gives school board members the authority to fill a vacancy, but it does not provide any options should a board reach an impasse. 

To address this issue, I recently offered a bill with Representative Weatherston that would allow the School Board president to fill a board vacancy if the position has been open for more than 60 days. 
The proposal would apply to all school boards except for Milwaukee. 

In order to keep our schools at their best we need to have strong leadership, and I doubt anyone would argue that this type of stalemate is good for our community. I am hopeful that we will be able to pass the bill quickly this fall so the Racine Unified Board can get back to serving our schools and students. 

In the District


On Saturday, August 22nd, I was proud to celebrate Ryan Charles Newberry  (pictured above with me and his parents) as he attained the rank of Eagle Scout. This is a great achievement which takes a tremendous amount of time and dedication to complete. Way to go, Ryan!
Connect with Van:


State Senator Van
21st Senate District 

Wisconsin State Capitol 
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, Wisconsin 53707
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The Moving Wall-
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August 27 - 31


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Case High School Fieldhouse
September 26, 5:00 pm

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