Wis. judicial commission wants Prosser disciplined

Jessica M. Karmasek Mar. 19, 2012, 11:25am


MADISON, Wis. (Legal Newsline) - The Wisconsin Judicial Commission, in a filing with the state Supreme Court Friday, said it has "found probable cause" to believe that Justice David Prosser "willfully violated" the state code of judicial conduct.

In November, the commission notified Prosser that it was investigating allegations that he physically attacked fellow 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, 2011. That was the day before the state's high court released an opinion upholding Gov. Scott Walker's controversial Budget Repair Bill.

"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.

Prosser, who was reelected to the Court last year, has said Bradley's claims will be "proven false."

The commission, in its four-page filing, contends that Prosser violated three provisions of the judicial conduct code.

Among them, a provision states that a judge shall be "patient, dignified and courteous" to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers and others with whom the judge deals in an "official capacity."

The second provision, the commission said, states that a judge must cooperate with other judges as members of a "common judicial system" to promote "the satisfactory administration of justice."

The third states that an "independent and honorable" judiciary is "indispensable" to justice. Under the provision, a judge should participate in establishing, maintaining and enforcing high standards of conduct and shall "personally observe" those standards so that the "integrity and independence" of the judiciary will be preserved.

"The judicial commission requests that this matter be determined according to law and that appropriate discipline be imposed," wrote Franklyn M. Gimbel, the special prosecutor appointed by the commission.

Prosser, in a statement released by the Court Friday, called the charges "partisan, unreasonable and largely untrue."

"They will be vigorously contested because I am innocent," he said.

Prosser argues that the incident was "significantly different" that what the commission alleged in its filing.

"There would have been no physical contact between Justice Bradley and me if she had not suddenly and unexpectedly charged at me from a distance of about six feet with her right hand in a fist," he said.

"By her own admission, Justice Bradley intended to confront me 'face to face' 'in [my] personal space.' She did not demand that I get out of her office until after contact had occurred. I never intentionally touched Justice Bradley's neck. I never 'choked' her or put her in a 'chokehold.'"

Prosser also argues that the commission, which is tasked with enforcing judicial behavior, has been "patently unfair" in its handling of the matter.

"It has not been interested in discerning the truth. It has been committed to making a political statement," he said.

"The judicial commission is trying to accomplish through this prosecution what some of its members failed to achieve at the ballot box."

According to The Associated Press, the commission now must prove its case against Prosser.

Three appeals court judges will hear the case and file their findings with the Court, which will decide a punishment, the AP reported.

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

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