Wisconsin Doctors Offering Fake Sick Notes For Strikers?

There are widespread reports that sympathetic doctors are offering to sign fraudulent documents certifying that the striking Wisconsin public workers, who are engaging in an illegal wildcat strike, are sick and thus entitled to miss work.

Crooks and Liars traces a video going around to the discredited Breitbart network, so let’s discount that entirely. But Ann Althouse, a law professor at Wisconsin-Madison, says she personally spoke to a doctor who is engaged in the practice and defends it. So, I’m inclined to believe that this is in fact going on but don’t have any idea how widespread the practice is.

Assuming some significant number of doctors and striking workers are engaged in this conspiracy, I have two reactions.

First, this undermines the trust we have in the medical profession, a very bad thing indeed. We accept doctors’ notes as certification of legitimate absence because we assume that they would not put their professional reputation on the line to commit fraud.

Second, this undermines any claims to “civil disobedience” on the part of strikers gaming the system in this way. A fundamental tenant of civil disobedience is that it’s sometimes worth breaking the law in support of higher principle. But that means suffering the consequences of one’s actions in hopes that public sympathy demonstrates how odious the policy being protested was to begin with. Mohandas Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela went to jail. Muhammad Ali risked going to jail and was stripped of his boxing license and heavyweight championship. But they ultimately gained sympathy for their cause and won.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Yes, yes, by all means working people cannot ever game the system in their favor, unlike the wealthy and the political class. They must suffer.

  2. James Joyner says:

    This is out-and-out fraud in support of illegal activity. It goes a bit beyond “gaming the system.”

  3. jwest says:

    Thinking things through has never been the long suit of liberals.

    These doctors will never be able to defend against a malpractice action again, now that video exists of them willfully abetting fraud. Who will insure them?

    Dozens of videos are now appearing with the doctors identified and biographical information posted. Some sites have write-in campaigns to the state certifying boards and attorney general.

    How stupid do you need to be to throw away a career for this?

  4. James says:


    Guess I missed the memo on Andrew Breitbart (Discredited) ?


  5. Brummagem Joe says:

    “Second, this undermines any claims to “civil disobedience” on the part of strikers gaming the system in this way.”

    Do get real JJ and spare us the pompous platitudes. Whatever Walker and the Republicans can ram through isn’t going to bring this to an end. Public workers are going to mount a campaign of passive resistance using any methods at their disposal. I’ve no doubt friendly doctors here and there are signing sick notes. The opportunities for disruption when the workforce isn’t cooperating are immense. I was talking to a good friend of mine who is a school superintendant who is not a great fan of teachers unions although he was a member once. He pointed out most public schools are in buildings that are in less than great shape so all teachers have to do is start claiming health hazards and the whole system will grind to a halt. It’s also very easy for work crews to sabotage for example snow clearance actiivities. After a year of this Walker will be in a world of hurt believe me because I’ve seen what can happen when you have a disaffected workforce. He’s completely energized the labor movement in WI and the public workers have immense leverage.

  6. Brummagem Joe says:

    James Joyner says:
    Sunday, February 20, 2011 at 08:54
    “This is out-and-out fraud in support of illegal activity. It goes a bit beyond “gaming the system.”

    I’m shocked, shocked, that this sort of thing can happen.

  7. Richard Bleuze says:

    If the doctors are committing fraud by giving out sick notices, then their licenses should be taken away by the state for fraud

  8. David says:

    James – By your definition, aren’t the doctors then engaged in a form of civil disobedience to protect other people engaged in civil disobedience?

  9. Dean says:

    Yes, the doctors are engaged in a form of civil disobedience and should be willing to accept any consequences that comes with it, such as possible loss of their medical license.

  10. jwest says:

    “……African-American fourth-graders in Wisconsin scored the worst in the nation.
    Only 9 percent of minority students performed at a proficient level.”

    It will be pretty hard to garner sympathy for teachers and subsequently for the doctors committing fraud to protect them with information like this leaking out.

  11. JKB says:

    Well, any employee who turns in such a note is guilty of criminal fraud for profit
    Any employee who seeks reimbursement from insurance due to such a note is guilty of fraud
    BTW, that is a good way to cull out the bad from the good, no insurance claim, note rejected. Insurance claim, demand copy of exam record.

    Any administrator who accepts such notes without due diligence to their validity is guilty of malfeasance.

    So lots and lots of these government employees should be joining the unemployed for cause which precludes their claiming unemployment.

  12. JKB says:

    The doctors are actually simple to deal with. If they show such disregard for ethical and legal standards, it would be prudent to examine their prescribing record for evidence of illegal prescribing of controlled substances.

  13. Dean says:

    jwest says: African-American fourth-graders in Wisconsin scored the worst in the nation.
    Only 9 percent of minority students performed at a proficient level.”

    From my perspective, that fact should be why 70,000 people showed up in Madison to protest. Jesse Jackson should be asking the teachers and legislature why black students are not progressing in Wisconsin.

    If it’s because the state isn’t paying them enough, then one can only assume the teachers are not giving their all to their students.

  14. Periodontist says:

    Silly because it’s not even needed. I can easily go to my doctor and fake some symptoms to the point where he validly (from what he knows) writes me a sick note. There is no need for the doctor to be complicit in the activity other than just doing his job in an ethical manner.

  15. anjin-san says:

    > This is out-and-out fraud in support of illegal activity.

    Can you show us exactly what laws the strikers are breaking?

    But by all means, lets bring the boot of government down upon the backs of the doctors as well. Then we can have some posts about how Republicans are really slaves because they have to pay taxes.

  16. anjin-san says:

    That’s a cute photo on this post James. Are you prepared to show a receipt or release for every photo you have ever published on this blog that proves you have properly obtained for the rights to use the image? If not, we may have to assume you are breaking the law and disregarding the rights of photographers, models and stock agencies.

    Or is it respect for the law for thee and not for me?

  17. Axel Edgren says:

    “Second, this undermines any claims to “civil disobedience” on the part of strikers gaming the system in this way.”

    Yup, but it doesn’t undermine the entire movement.

    I usually go by the rule of “Wait a while” anytime the right get upset over something. It is either fraudulent, based on an anecdote or just herd instincts and poutrage. They are simple and manipulative people at heart. I am ready to be proved wrong but they are all untrustworthy.

  18. James Joyner says:

    @anjin-san: I tend to use images that are in the public domain or released under Creative Commons licenses, although I’m occasionally lazy about that. But you’re seriously equating medical professionals issuing fraudulent documents to abet an illegal strike with infringing on someone’s copyright claims?

  19. anjin-san says:

    > although I’m occasionally lazy about that.

    So you have given yourself permission to cut this corner. Well, after all, you are a member of the ruling class, sort of. It’s not like you are a lowly public employee.

    I have a number of friends who are successful professional photographers. I can assure you that they take the issue of rights violation regarding their property very seriously. There is a lot of noise from the right, indeed on this blog, about wealth redistribution, e.g. the government taking, say, Doug’s property and giving it to someone else. It’s instructive that you think if James Joyner occasionally helps himself to someone else’s property it is just not a big deal. Physician, heal thyself. Or at least refrain from being too preachy on issues like property and respect for the law.

    Sometimes people have to make a stand. The right has basically declared open season on public employees. I am the first to argue that we are badly in need of reform in the area of public pay and pensions. What is going on in the UC system where I live is beyond a disgrace, and that is just one example of a systemic problem.

    That being said, what is going on in Wisconsin is not about reform, it is about power. Break the unions. The doctors might be helping them? Fine. Break the doctors. It’s a very slippery slope. Once we start breaking folks, well you never know who will be next. I have no desire to return to the days of J. Edgar Hoover, though apparently JKB does.

    When will you guys be happy? When 2 percent of our society has 95% of the wealth and all of the power? My country tis of thee…

  20. Have A Nice G.A. says:

    Wow, I truly feel trapped in the Mission Earth dekalogy, time for some hot jolt.

  21. James, don’t be silly. Breitbart or not, the video shows a personally identifiable staff member from the UW Department of Family Medicine. Ann Althouse’s video does the same. This seems to constitute prima facie evidence of both fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud. The MacIver Institute videos also show easily identifiable staff physicians from the same department.` Breitbart’s video ought to be taken seriously, not dismissed out of hand — especially on the word of Crooks&Liars.

    Separately, I’d like to see you argue what Breitbart has done to make him so easy to dismiss — thinking back, I can’t remember any of the controversial videos have haven’t turned out to be verifiable. This puts him well ahead of, for example, the NYTimes and NBC News.

  22. Have A Nice G.A. says:

    ***That being said, what is going on in Wisconsin is not about reform***Wisconsin is BROKE. We cannot afford to give gem encrusted white gold packages to everybody and their 26 year old kids for all eternity any more,savvy?

  23. anjin-san says:

    > We cannot afford to give gem encrusted white gold packages to everybody and their 26 year old kids for all eternity any more,savvy?

    Fine. Can you provide a link for the plan Walker has submitted to reduce his own pay and benefits? Oh, and for his staff as well, especially executive staff. And one for the plan GOP legislators have submitted for the reduction of same? I will stand by.

  24. anjin-san says:

    Oh, and cops and firefighters too…

  25. wr says:

    Oh, and for the daddy of the house and senate leaders, who just got appointed to a high-paid job on the state payroll.

  26. wr says:

    James — Delightful to see you call for prosecution of this fraud the day after the Feds decided not to proseucte Angelo Mozillo. Not a single high-level banker has faced criminal charges for the massive criminal conspiracy that ruined the world’s economy. But you want to charge doctors for helping teachers protect their basic rights.

    Nice to see what liberatarianism is all about. Freedom from the government for the rich and powerful. The government’s boot heel for the middle class and poor.

    What’s that line from Hannah and Her Sisters? Oh, yes: “If Jesus Christ came back to earth he’d never stop throwing up.”

  27. jwest says:


    Can’t we all agree to simply enjoy this time of teacher union crushing? We’ll get to the others.

    Oh, and cops and firefighters too.

  28. James Joyner says:

    @James (09:07) and @Charlie Martin:

    I didn’t bother to look at the first video once it became clear that Breitbart was behind it. Once it became clear that the video sting that made him famous — the ACORN pimps thing — was an out and out fraud, I dismiss anything else by that outfit out of hand.


    I continue to be perplexed as to how people who make their living off of tax dollars are somehow exploited members of the proletariat.

    My dad spent all but a tiny portion of his working life in the Army and the DoD civil service. I’ve served in the Army, as a DoD contractor, and as a public university professor. Contrary to the general misperception, I don’t think the majority of public sector employees are bilking us out of our money. But nor do I think they’re some pitiful class that’s being exploited. Fact of the matter is that public sector employees make more money than the people who pay them and have much better benefits and protections.

  29. herpyderp says:

    Hahahaha . .Silly conservatives will fall for anything . . . Maybe you should all dress up as pimps?

  30. jwest says:


    Concerning Breitbart, there was enough truth in his reporting to bring the ACORN organization down. I think it may help in the future if you research beyond Huffington Post before passing judgment.

    Oh, and while we’re on the subject of mistaken impressions, I’m still waiting for your well reasoned article on why Sarah Palin is “unqualified” to be president.

  31. James Joyner says:


    I’m happy as the next guy to see ACORN go down, as I think they were a slimy organization. But the hoopla created by the Breitbarg “sting” had its impact well before it was proven that the tape was spliced together in a fraudulent way.

    I’ve been writing about why Palin is unqualified for going on two years. But I suspect that, if you still think she’s presidential timber, there’s nothing I’ll be able to say to dissuade you from that notion.

  32. jwest says:


    Had ACORN, or the dozens of left wing organizations that support them, been able to show that Breitbart’s “tape was spliced together in a fraudulent way”, they would still be in operation. Breitbart’s numerous tapes showed unequivocally that ACORN was nothing short of a criminal organization, which is something the MSM should have done long ago.

    I have no doubt you’ve posted various articles over the past few years as different Palin-related subjects surfaced; however, you made a fairly definitive statement declaring she was unqualified for the presidency. As a political science PhD, it shouldn’t be too hard to summarize the points that led you to that conclusion, and as a semi-influential blogger it would be interesting to read (and possibly debate) some of the items you list.

  33. wr says:

    James — To the extent that public employees have decent wages and good benefits, it’s because they are represented by a union.

    Half the point of breaking the unions is to allow governments to strip them of any such protections.

    (The other half, of course, is to defund the Democratic party now that the Supreme Court has allowed multi-national corporations to plow unlimited amounts of cash into the GOP.)

    The union workers are fighting to keep the rights that have allowed them to stay in the rapidly shrinking middle class. You seem to think that since they haven’t been impoverished yet, they don’t have anything to complain about. That’s like saying a cow on the conveyer belt shouldn’t complain because the blade hasn’t hit her throat yet.

  34. Have A Nice G.A. says:

    ***Fine. Can you provide a link for the plan Walker has submitted to reduce his own pay and benefits? Oh, and for his staff as well, especially executive staff. And one for the plan GOP legislators have submitted for the reduction of same? I will stand by.***

    One step at a time.You should really check out Walker, see what he did in state State Assembly and as County executive.

    He had given much of his salary back in that last job, he has also given his reason for not including the vital actual public servants at this time, My words for the meaning in the last part.

    but I think you might really dislike him if you do look him up, He is honest, straightforward, no nonsense, does what says, can understand and manage a budget with out raising taxes, is pro life, pro business and an eagle scout 🙂

  35. wr says:

    GA — You forgot to mention he loves puppies. I mean, what’s not to love, except that he is trying to loot the state’s middle class to give the money to giant corporations in the form of tax breaks. Oh, and he’d rather screw people making 50K than tax those making twenty times that.

    A lovely, lovely man who loathes workers and hates equality.

  36. Have A Nice G.A. says:

    wr I have been making under 50k all my life yet I am not a communist. Save the class warfare for someone else. I am immune. well Rich liberals kinda veer me in that direction form time to time…mostly immune.

  37. Wiley Stoner says:

    Breitbart did not sponsor those films. They were brought to him. Breitbart is at least as honest as you are James. But this is not about you or Breitbart. This is about doctors providing false information to people who wish to get paid for services they did not perform. Teachers who broke the law by attending the rally instead of going to work both should not get paid and if they use false documents to claim they were sick should be fired. Doctors who provided the false documents should be barred from the practice of medicine.
    I have not been commenting here very long, but long enough to recognize the astute wisdom of anyone who names himself after Richard Blackthorn, the pilot. Anjin, where do you pile it?

  38. Wiley Stoner says:

    WR, in reading what you post, I assume you are uneducated. Is that the case? Your arguement seems to be made up of attacks and very few facts.

  39. anjin-san says:

    Tell me Wiley, what was the pivotal scene in “Shogun”? I will bet a doctors note you have no clue.

    My goodness, where were all these respecters of law and order when the last President decided the law was something he could simply ignore when he felt like it?

    > Your arguement seems to be made up of attacks and very few facts.

    Sounds a lot like you. Specifically what laws have been broken? Don’t start hitting Google, just tell us, as you seem to be so sure. Cite some code.

  40. AnJo1 says:

    My employees get paid (quite well) for the hours they work. Period. No “paid” vacation, no “paid” sick leave, no “paid” holidays. Within limits depending on workload, and on reasonable notice, they can take as much time off as they want. Want three two-week vacations a year? No problem. Feel like you need a day off to veg out? No problem. Would prefer to get paid than take off Presidents’ Day? No problem. You work, you get paid. You don’t work, you don’t get paid. Simple, clean and a reminder that the only reason anybody employs anybody is for the WORK they do.

  41. anjin-san says:

    > Simple, clean and a reminder that the only reason anybody employs anybody is for the WORK they do.

    Really? I know some people who are employed pretty much because they are very attractive. Some people are employed because they have great ideas, they don’t need to do much work, their value lies elsewhere. Some are employed because of nepotism, or cronyism. I could go on, but it is late.

    You don’t get out much, do you?

  42. jwest says:


    John Wayne said it best in McClintock.

    George Washington McLintock: [Swings and McLintock and gets thrown to the ground] Hold that hog leg! I’ve been punched many a time in my life but never for hirin’ anyone.

    Devlin Warren: I don’t know what to say. Never begged before. Turned my stomach. I suppose I should have been grateful that you gave me the job.

    George Washington McLintock: Gave? Boy, you’ve got it all wrong. I don’t give jobs I hire men.

    Drago: You intend to give this man a full day’s work, don’tcha boy?

    Devlin Warren: You mean you’re still hirin’ me? Well, yes, sir, I certainly deliver a fair day’s work.

    George Washington McLintock: And for that I’ll pay you a fair day’s wage. You won’t give me anything and I won’t give you anything. We both hold up our heads.

    Liberals have never understood this concept.

  43. anjin-san says:


    It is noteworthy that your intellectual universe seems to be informed largely by fiction.

    > Liberals have never understood this concept

    Why don’t you just make a single statement, something like “I am a complete, utter, blithering idiot”? That would cover about everything you have ever said. You would never have to post again, and you would have more free time.

  44. jwest says:


    I try to put things into a simply-understood format so that you can rise above your limited liberal mindset and comprehend the gist of the conversation.

    Take the example I posted above. From this, I had hoped that you would learn the concept of one party purchasing labor or service and another party selling that same thing. Neither party forcing the other to do anything they don’t agree to.

    If you could just open your mind beyond the standard liberal dogma for a moment, I’ll bet you could begin to realize what a wonderful system this represents. It may just change your life.

  45. Mike Drew says:

    “Fact of the matter is that public sector employees make more money than the people who pay them and have much better benefits and protections.”

    What are you talking about? There aren’t million-dollar earners in the country? Shouldn’t that sentence contain “some of” or “many of”? Donlt bother saying “oops, an oversight.” This betrays your attitude.

    You also need to show soe cause for your repeated claim that this is illegal activity prior to the soliciting of fraudulent doctor notes (with which I am in agreement with you about morally an legally). A Wisconsin court declared the teachers’ action not a strike, and declined to issue an order that they return to classrooms. This is because it is clearly plausible that any public employees there had enough personal time to cover the time spent. You are slandering these public servants regarding whether they are engaged in illegal activity prior to any medical fraud. You’ve done it before, and you do it again here, and it needs to stop. This is disgraceful. If you want to make allegations of illegality, you need to get some facts with which to do so. You are doing nothing but making assumptions about these good people here. You are professor at a prestigious university. You MUST adhere to a higher standard than this.

    BTW, where did the podcast go? I’ma regular listener!

  46. James Joyner says:


    I was unaware of the court decision but it’s a head scratcher. It’s simply absurd to argue that this isn’t a strike. Of course it’s a strike. And they do not have the right to strike while under contract.

    BlogTalkRadio recruited me to do a weekly show, for which they paid me. Then, they stopped paying their hosts and I decided to keep doing it for free. Then, they decided they wanted their hosts to pay to generate content for them. I declined. At some point, we’ll figure out a way to bring it back, I suspect.

  47. Mike Drew says:

    Of course it’s a strike, except that it’s not. Simple as that. When they go on strike, you’ll know.

    That’s a bummer about the podcast. I’ll look for a new version coming down the pike.