The state Supreme Court has cleared one hurdle while leaving another in place for the district attorneys seeking to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court a halted John Doe investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s recall campaign.

In a 4-1 decision with two justices not participating, the court denied a motion to allow three private lawyers, an administrative assistant and a printing company access to the sealed John Doe court files.

Justice Shirley Abrahamson objected to that decision but agreed with the majority that sealed court filings can be used in an appeal if they remain sealed.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne and Iowa County District Attorney Larry Nelson were allowed to intervene in the case after the state Supreme Court removed special prosecutor Francis Schmitz as head of the investigation.

The high court halted the investigation in July.

The case involved coordination between Walker’s recall campaign and outside advocacy groups.

Lawyers representing those who were being investigated argued the district attorneys don’t have the authority to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court because only Attorney General Brad Schimel has that power.

The justices disagreed with that argument, saying a John Doe investigation falls under a district attorney’s responsibility.

“To the extent that the Intervenor District Attorneys intend to pursue review in the U.S. Supreme Court, the decisions on what to argue and what not to argue will likewise be part of the exercise of the prosecutorial function on behalf of the State,” they wrote.

But they denied the request to involve outside lawyers, writing “they have not shown why they need assistance.”

Abrahamson disagreed with the ruling, writing that it’s legal for the district attorneys to bring in lawyers working for free on their behalf.

“The four justices are now impeding the district attorneys’ efforts to obtain assistance in filing a petition for writ of certiorari,” Abrahamson wrote. “In so doing, the four justices demonstrate their continued hostility toward the State and the ‘prosecution team’ that are supporting the constitutionality of the Wisconsin campaign finance laws regulating coordination.”

Capital W: Plug in to Wisconsin politics

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