Judge in John Doe suspect Kavanaugh case signed recall petition

MILWAUKEE — Kevin Kavanaugh, one of the suspects involved in the on-going John Doe investigation appeared in court Wednesday, April 18. Kavanaugh missed his last scheduled court date because he was hospitalized for an illness.

Wednesday, the judge in the case said he is staying on the case, despite the fact that he signed a "Walker recall" petition. Judge Dennis Cimpl said just because he signed a petition against Governor Scott Walker doesn't mean he will be biased in this case. "The signing of a recall petition is a right guaranteed to anybody by Article 13, so there's no question I have the right to do it. Second of all, judges put aside personal feelings every day in every case," Judge Cimpl said.

Judge Cimpl joins 29 other Wisconsin judges who admit signing recall petitions, including nine Milwaukee County judges.

Kavanaugh's lawyer asked that the judge recuse himself from the case. "I think it does have the appearance that you might not be able to be fair and impartial, so we would ask you respectfully judge to recuse yourself from the case," Kavanaugh's lawyer said in court Wednesday.

UW-Milwaukee Professor of Governmental Affairs Mordecai Lee says there should be a higher oversight deciding whether a judge should be on a case if there could be a conflict. "We've maximized individual liberty over public obligations. It's so surprising that in these cases, where you're dealing with a judge, it's like it's their decision whether they're going to recuse themselves or not. Nobody can tell them what to do. That just seems wrong to me," Lee said.

Judge Cimpl said as far as he's concerned, in this case, Kavanaugh is innocent until proven guilty. "I voted for Governor Walker for county executive twice. I thought he did a decent job as county executive. My problems are with his performance as governor," Cimpl said.

Judge Cimpl will be rotated out of the court at the end of July, as is routinely done. That is before Kavanaugh's trial would start. Another judge will be assigned to this case eventually.

Kavanaugh was the former Milwaukee County official appointed by Governor Walker while he was county executive. Kavanaugh is accused of taking $42,000 from Operation Freedom, a program designed to help veterans and their families. Kavanaugh faces multiple theft and fraud charges.

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