July 24, 2014

Weighing the impact of Walker’s subpoena

When a former Milwaukee County employee goes on trial next week on charges of felony misconduct, Governor Scott Walker is expected to take the stand as a witness after a subpoena was delivered to his attorney late last week. It marks a rare occasion where a sitting governor will testify as a part of a criminal proceeding.

UW-Madison associate professor of history and law Karl Shoemaker says that “while no sitting governor wants to be subpoenaed in a criminal case, it does happen,” and there’s little Governor Walker can do to get out of taking the stand. Shoemaker says there does not appear to be any provision in Wisconsin law that would grant immunity to a governor or other top elected official in criminal proceedings, although such rules doe exist in other states.

Kelly Rindfleisch is accused of doing campaign work while working as the deputy chief of staff in the Milwaukee County Executive’s office. Walker held that office at the time, which Shoemaker says is the likely reason why he’s being subpoenaed. He says Rindfleisch is the one on trial and the witnesses being called are ones who might know about her activities on the job.

Shoemaker says he can see why there may be speculation about what Walker will say, considering the scope of the John Doe investigation and questions about “where in the chain of command it will stop.”

The probe launched by the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office has focused largely on parts of Walker’s administration when he was county executive. So far, six people have been criminally charged as a result of the investigation. Governor Walker is not charged with any wrongdoing.

Rindfleisch’s trial is set to start next Monday morning. Walker has been ordered to appear on the second day of the trial.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:09)