Wis. SC justice at center of alleged 2011 attack recuses herself from disciplinary case

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Feb 14, 2013

MADISON, Wis. (Legal Newsline) -- Although expected, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley has decided to recuse herself from the disciplinary case against fellow Justice David Prosser.

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.

According to reports, Prosser and Bradley were arguing about the ruling in front of the other justices. When Bradley asked Prosser to leave her chambers, Prosser then allegedly grabbed her neck with both hands.

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

In November 2011, the state's Judicial Commission notified Prosser that it was investigating allegations that he physically attacked Bradley.

In a filing with the Supreme Court in March 2012, the commission said it "found probable cause" to believe that Prosser "willfully violated" the state code of judicial conduct.

In response, Prosser filed motions for recusal from every member of the state's high court.

However, three other justices, and Prosser, have decided not to participate.

Without a quorum, the court cannot move the case to a three-judge panel.

"Justice Prosser's procedural maneuvers, designed to foreclose any opportunity for a public hearing, have deprived this court of a quorum and may deprive the people of this state a full opportunity to learn what happened when four justices simultaneously appeared at my office on the evening of June 13, 2011, demanding that an after-hours press release be immediately issued," Bradley wrote in her six-page response.

In her response, Bradley also says she and Justice N. Patrick Crooks met with the Director of State Courts in February 2010 -- nearly a year and a half before the incident at issue -- "asking that something be done about Justice Prosser because... there was an escalation in violence."

Bradley alleges that Prosser's behavior became "increasingly agitated" two months before the incident in her office.

At that time, she says, a plan was devised by law enforcement for enhanced security due to concerns that Prosser's behavior "posed a threat to our physical safety."

"Because the danger came from the inside and not the outside, the locked entry doors that limit public access to the area of the supreme court offices were not a sufficient protection," Bradley wrote. "Both the Chief Justice (Shirley Abrahamson) and I were advised to take steps for personal security, including locking ourselves inside our personal offices when working alone at nights and on weekends."

Additionally, she says both she and Abrahamson were given as emergency contacts the personal cell phone number, work cell phone number, squad cell phone number and home phone number of Capital Chief of Police Charles Tubbs.

"Although this plan was in effect two months before Justice Prosser and the other justices came to my office on the evening of June 13, 2011, it did not prevent him from becoming agitated and grabbing my neck with both of his hands, wrapping them in a full circle around my neck," Bradley wrote.

Bradley also used her response as an opportunity to call out fellow justices for downplaying the incident.

"Justice (Michael) Gableman told the detectives that Justice Prosser's hands were 'never... around her neck at any point.' He stated that Justice Prosser had been speaking 'meek[ly]' and that 'his hands [were] together as if he was praying.'

"Likewise, Justice (Patience) Roggensack told the detectives 'his hands and fingers were pointing straight up and were never around her neck.'"

Roggensack, Bradley says, also has -- incorrectly -- suggested that it was Bradley's conduct that evening that caused Prosser to respond.

"Justice Roggensack's recent and continued denials of the existence of any workplace safety or work environment problems are simply not accurate," Bradley wrote. "It is a myth for her to maintain, as recently reported, that any 'talk of dysfunction and incivility on the seven-member court [is] just a bunch of gossip at its worst.'

"Denying that those problems exist merely enables the behavior and prevents meaningful solutions."

Bradley says the incident has "exposed flaws" in the court and its system that "must be addressed and solved if we are to function properly."

To this day, she says she and Abrahamson continue to lock themselves in their private offices when working alone because of concerns for their physical safety due to Prosser's behavior.

"That is not a satisfactory solution," Bradley wrote.

Also in her response, Bradley says the process for disciplining justices needs to be reformed.

"Many court observers have weighed in on the shortcomings of our current system, which puts justices sitting in judgment of their closest colleagues," she explained.

"The current system destroys collegiality, compromises accountability, and contributes to the dysfunction of the court."

Roggensack, who is up for reelection, told the Wisconsin State Journal Thursday her statements were meant to describe how the court is functioning currently.

She told the newspaper the 2011 incident was "awful, terrible and inappropriate."

"Did I think what happened in June 2011 was fine? No," she said. "But that was nearly two years ago. Nothing has happened since then."

Roggensack is being challenged by Milwaukee attorney Vince Megna and Marquette University law professor Edward Fallone in Tuesday's primary.

The two candidates with the most votes will face each other in the state's April 2 general election.

The winner will serve a 10-year term on the Court.

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

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