Walker as witness delicate matter - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Walker as witness delicate matter


MADISON (WKOW) -- Legal experts say if Governor Scott Walker testifies in an upcoming criminal trial of one of his former aides, he will join the ranks of other top officials in the unenviable position of having to take the witness stand.

"There's a number of instances of current sitting governors on both sides of the aisle being subpoenaed, or being involved in litigation arising, not just out of civil cases, but in some cases, criminal cases," says UW-Madison associate professor of history and law Karl Shoemaker.

The state's witness list for next month's misconduct trial of Kelly Rindfleisch in Milwaukee County includes Governor Walker, Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch, and state medicaid director Brett Davis.

Prosecutors accuse Rindfleisch of doing political work in 2010 for Davis' then-campaign for lieutenant governor, while at her government job as a top aide to then-Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker.

Former Deputy Dane County District Attorney Tim Verhoff says it would be standard practice for prosecutors to confer with key witnesses at least a month before a major trial in  preparation for presenting their case.

Verhoff says prosecutors have a legal obligation to list all potential trial witnesses, even if prosecutors ultimately decide not to call some of them to the witness stand.

Verhoff also says potential witnesses would typically receive subpoenas to guarantee their appearance in court, or face sanctions.

Spokespersons for Walker and for Walker's political campaign have yet to return calls from 27 News seeking comment on whether Walker has received a subpoena, or conferred with prosecutors.

In recent months, Walker has said he's cooperated with Milwaukee County prosecutors as they investigate several of his aides for potential criminal wrongdoing. Several aides have been charged, a political donor has been convicted, but Rindfleisch's case would be the first to go to trial, if it's not resolved by the October 15 trial date.

Shoemaker says while governors elsewhere have testified in court cases, the prospect of such legal involvement is anathema to them.

Shoemaker says a governor's protection from being summoned as a witness in a legal matter varies from state to state, and can involve fine-line legal distinctions.

Shoemaker says Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels successfully avoided an attempt to compel him as a witness in a lawsuit involving the state's contract arrangement with IBM.

Rindfleisch's trial judge has already warned parties he will not allow her trial to become a referendum on Walker's performance and politics.

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