Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, a conservative jurist and former Republican lawmaker, has been accused of abusive behavior before. Last year, he grew enraged with one of his fellow justices, called her a “bitch,” and threatened to “destroy” her. (Prosser later said his reaction was “warranted,” and it was his colleague’s fault for “goading” him.)
But the events in Madison two weeks ago represent an unhealthy escalation in the Republican judge’s misconduct. This time, he’s accused of becoming violent with a different woman jurist on the state Supreme Court.
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.
As one might imagine in a situation like this, there are competing versions of events. We know that two weeks ago, six of the court’s seven justices were meeting informally to discuss the year’s most controversial ruling — upholding a bill to strip many state workers of their collective bargaining rights — which they were poised to announce. The discussion was in Bradley’s office.
The conversation turned heated, and Prosser reportedly made disparaging remarks about Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson (whom Prosser had previously called a “bitch”). When Bradley asked Prosser to leave her office, she claims he put his hands around her neck. Prosser claims he was acting in self defense and his hands only “made contact” with his colleague’s neck.
A source to the Journal Sentinel said the incident “was in no way playful.”
There were obviously four witnesses to what transpired — they just happen to be state Supreme Court justices — so presumably some version of the truth will emerge. The Capitol Police chief has been notified, and the matter has reportedly been referred to the Wisconsin Judicial Commission, which investigates allegations of misconduct involving judges.
Given Prosser’s track record and apparent hostility towards women, it’s awfully difficult to give him the benefit of the doubt. And if true, putting one’s hands around a colleague’s neck, in anger, seems like a no-brainer when it comes to removing a judge from the bench. Indeed, it sounds an awful lot like assault and battery.
Ian Millhiser has a good piece detailing the ways Prosser can be removed from his office, and noting that Prosser’s actions may constitute a felony.