Wis. chief justice: Justices must uphold reputation

Jessica M. Karmasek Aug. 26, 2011, 10:25am


MADISON, Wis. (Legal Newsline) - Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson says a special prosecutor's decision not to prosecute Justice David Prosser over an alleged attack on a fellow justice "should be respected."

On Thursday, Special Prosecutor Patricia Barrett announced she won't bring charges against Prosser, who was alleged to have physically attacked Justice Ann Walsh Bradley in her chambers in June.

According to the Journal Sentinel and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, Prosser allegedly attacked Bradley on June 13. That was the day before the state's high court released an opinion upholding Gov. Scott Walker's controversial Budget Repair Bill.

"This is and remains an issue of workplace safety," Bradley said in a statement Thursday. "My focus from the outset has not been one of criminal prosecution, but rather addressing workplace safety."

Bradley said she contacted law enforcement after the incident but only for assistance in addressing the workplace safety issue.

"I well understand the difficulty of gaining any criminal conviction," she added. "The prosecution's burden of proof is very heavy, as it should be."

"Three knowledgeable sources" told the Center that Prosser and Bradley were arguing about the ruling in front of the other justices. When Bradley asked Prosser to leave her chambers, Prosser then grabbed her neck with both hands, the sources said.

Bradley, herself, recounted the attack to the Journal Sentinel.

"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," she told the newspaper.

However, others told the Journal Sentinel that Bradley charged Prosser and that the justice put up his hands to defend himself, coming in contact with Bradley's neck.

Barrett also said Bradley would not face any criminal charges.

Abrahamson issued her own statement Thursday in response to the special prosecutor's decision.

"With respect to the prospect of criminal prosecution the district attorney has reached the conclusion not to prosecute, a decision that should be respected," the chief justice said.

"Media sources have reported that the issues presented by these events are of longer standing and larger than the question of a criminal violation. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has a long history and a reputation for excellence, a reputation that all justices must uphold.

"As Chief Justice, I remain committed -- as ever -- that the court be maintained as a place where disputes are resolved, not created. Each justice owes the others and the people of the state civility and personal control in our language, demeanor and temperament in the conference room and on and off the bench."

Abrahamson said she will propose to the Court at the beginning of its new term that court conferences be open to the public.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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