MADISON, Wis. (Legal Newsline) - Dane County Chief Judge William Foust announced Monday that a Sauk County district attorney will take over an investigation into whether state Supreme Court Justice David Prosser physically attacked a fellow justice.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, District Attorney Patricia Barrett will serve as the special prosecutor.
Barrett, 62, was elected as a Republican but is an advocate of making district attorneys' elections nonpartisan, the Journal Sentinel reported. She plans on retiring at the end of her term next fall.
Earlier this month, Dane County District Attorney Ishmael Ozanne asked that a special prosecutor be appointed to head up the investigation.
"I take this action not because I feel this office wouldn't be fair, but so that any decision can be free from accusations to ensure the public's trust in the system and to allow the incident to be reviewed on the merits with no appearance of political motivation for any decisions or outcome," Ozanne said in a statement.
In June, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley claimed that Prosser physically attacked her in her chambers.
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.
Ozanne had filed the lawsuit against the collective bargaining 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 recently reelected to the Court, says Bradley's claims will be "proven false."
"Once there's a proper review of the matter and the facts surrounding it are made clear, the anonymous claims made to the media will be proven false. Until then, I will refrain from further public comment," he said in a statement.
The sheriff's department findings, which have been turned over to the Wisconsin Judicial Commission, did not include a charging recommendation.
The judicial commission said in June an investigation into the matter will be conducted "without prejudgment in a fair and thorough manner" in accord with commission procedures.
However, all judicial commission proceedings are confidential pursuant to state code.
"The Commission will have no further comment," it said of the incident.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.