Law,  Stateside

Jurisprudence Wisconsin style

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

[Wisconsin] Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley late Saturday accused fellow Justice David Prosser of putting her in a chokehold during a dispute in her office earlier this month.

“The facts are that I was demanding that he get out of my office and he put his hands around my neck in anger in a chokehold,” Bradley told the Journal Sentinel.

Sources told the Journal Sentinel two very different stories Saturday about what occurred. Some confirmed Bradley’s version. According to others, Bradley charged Prosser, who raised his hands to defend himself and made contact with her neck.

A joint investigation by Wisconsin Public Radio and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism first reported on the incident early Saturday, stating that Prosser “allegedly grabbed” Bradley around the neck.

Before Bradley spoke to the Journal Sentinel, Prosser issued a statement that said: “Once there’s a proper review of the matter and the facts surrounding it are made clear, the anonymous claim made to the media will be proven false. Until then I will refrain from further public comment.”

A source who spoke to several justices present during the incident told the Journal Sentinel that the confrontation occurred after 5:30 p.m. June 13, the day before the high court’s release of a decision upholding a bill to curtail the collective bargaining rights of public employees.
In an interview, Bradley said: “You can try to spin those facts and try to make it sound like I ran up to him and threw my neck into his hands, but that’s only spin.

“Matters of abusive behavior in the workplace aren’t resolved by competing press releases. I’m confident the appropriate authorities will conduct a thorough investigation of this incident involving abusive behavior in the workplace.”

… Prosser, a former Republican legislator who served as Assembly speaker, was appointed to the court in 1998 by Gov. Tommy G. Thompson. He won a high-profile April election that was often cast as a referendum of sorts on the policies of Republican Gov. Scott Walker, including his effort to eliminate most collective bargaining for public employees. Prosser, after a recount, defeated challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg by 7,000 votes out of nearly 1.5 million cast.

In deciding which version to believe, here’s some evidence to consider:

Prosser acknowledged in March that he called [Chief Justice Shirley] Abrahamson a “bitch” and threatened to “destroy” her during a closed-door meeting.

At the time, Prosser told the Journal Sentinel that the outburst to Abrahamson came after the chief justice took steps to undermine him politically and to embarrass him and other court conservatives.

“In the context of this, I said, ‘You are a total bitch,’ ” Prosser said. “I probably overreacted, but I think it was entirely . . . warranted. They (Abrahamson and Bradley) are masters at deliberately goading people into perhaps incautious statements. This is bullying and abuse of very, very long standing.”

In a March interview, Bradley said Prosser had flashes of extreme anger on and off over the years.

“It’s been going on for years off and on,” she said.

After Prosser’s outburst, Bradley sent an email to him and other justices saying the behavior was unacceptable. She said this March that from the time of her email until then there had been no incidents of similar magnitude.

She said she sent the email in an effort to stop Prosser from behaving inappropriately.

“I’ve been trying over the years to (figure out) best how to deal with it and one way is to call it out, and that’s what this email was,” Bradley said in March. “I’ve thought of other ways that have been unsuccessful. This was to describe it as it is and then you can deal with it.”

At the time of Prosser’s outburst to Abrahamson, Bradley said she considered going to law enforcement.

It “crossed my mind but I didn’t want to do it,” she said.

“This . . . for me at least in part is about the institution,” she added. “This behavior shouldn’t be occurring at the workplace.”

An hour and a half before sending her Feb. 18, 2010, email to all the justices, Bradley sent an email to Abrahamson and Crooks expressing her frustration with Prosser’s outbursts.

“As you both know, I am no longer willing to tolerate Prosser’s abusive behavior,” Bradley wrote. “I have been at a loss just how to proceed.”

And before anyone starts seeking counter examples: it would just as much a cause for outrage if a liberal judge behaved like that toward a conservative judge.