Wis. justice recuses self from court-fight case

John O'Brien Jul. 27, 2012, 1:30pm


MADISON, Wis. (Legal Newsline) - A Wisconsin Supreme Court justice says she must disqualify herself from the disciplinary proceedings involving an altercation between two other justices.

Friday, Justice Annette Ziegler filed her response to Justice David Prosser's request that she recuse herself from his case. She says that as a material witness, she should not participate.

Prosser has been accused of attacking Justice Ann Bradley in June 2011.

"Justice is supposed to be blind, but justice is not supposed to turn a blind eye to the obvious," Ziegler wrote. "An obvious conflict is presented by simultaneously participating as material witness and final decision-maker.

"Given these extraordinary circumstances, I simply see no legitimate basis upon which I could participate in this case."

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.

The two were arguing over the release date of the opinion. 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. It's also the story Prosser is making while defending himself against the charges.

Prosser did admit to the allegation that he called Abrahamson a "bitch" prior to the incident with Bradley.

"Admit that on one occasion in a confidential closed conference, Justice Prosser stated to the chief justice, 'You are a total bitch,'" Prosser's answer says.

Prosser asked each of his colleagues to disqualify themselves from the case. Justice Patrick Crooks refused last month.

"This matter -- involving discipline of a sitting Supreme Court justice arising from incidents with sitting justices that were witnessed by other sitting justices -- places this court in a difficult position," Crooks wrote. "It is the only available tribunal to make a final determination regarding appropriate discipline.

"This situation is precisely the reason for the Rule of Necessity: to provide a forum where no other would be available."

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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