Supporters of a measure for judicial discretion in certain John Doe proceedings say the process is outdated and flawed, allowing inmates to file bogus complaints against correctional officers.
"While we all agree that we must maintain the opportunity for a John Doe proceeding, the way its currently administered by the Wisconsin Judicial System leaves the process open to the potential for abuse and fraud, including frivolous, expensive, emotional, and time-consuming lawsuits."
During a Corrections Committee public hearing at the state capitol, Senator Pat Kreitlow (D-Eau Claire) says under the current law, judges are "forced" to begin a John Doe proceeding regardless of their opinion on the merits of the complaint. His bill requires that all John Doe complaints go to a district attorney for review before a judge "may" act on it.
Representative Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) says inmates place officers in a bad position. "An environment where difficult inmates can cuss, spit and antagonize officers on a routine basis can be challenging enough on a standard eight-hour shift, however the constant threat of costly, time-consuming and frivolous lawsuits prevents these workers from responding to inmates and doing the jobs the state of Wisconsin pays them to do."
In 2007, Gabe Umentum, a correctional officer at Waupun, had been charged with a felony for abuse to an inmate, he testifies, without any evidence against him. He says the inmate simply made up the story.
"The judge couldn't take into effect that the inmate was a chronic liar and rule breaker. The same inmate filed numerous John Doe lawsuits … just kept trying until he got a judge to listen to him."
Marty Beil, Executive Director, AFSCME Council 24, says this bill "is necessary." He says in the last year, there were over 100 John Does filed against correctional officers and probation and parole agents.
Senator Scott Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) agrees with the need for reform, but takes it even further. He wants the John Doe process "Flat-out eliminated."