Wis. SC justice says 'chokehold' never happened

By John O'Brien | May 1, 2012


MADISON, Wis. (Legal Newsline) - Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser said Monday that he was defending himself from a charging colleague when he made contact with her neck and admitted that he once called the court's chief justice "a total bitch."

Prosser made the statements in his answer to a complaint filed against him by the state Judicial Commission. The complaint charges him with choking Justice Ann Walsh Bradley during a June argument over the release date of an opinion regarding Gov. Scott Walker's controversial Budget Repair Bill.

Prosser says Bradley was the aggressor.

"(Bradley) charges Justice Prosser with her right hand in a fist after Justice Prosser said he had lost confidence in (Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson's) ability to lead the court," Prosser's answer says.

"She lost control of her actions and emotions. When Justice Bradley was within inches of Justice Prosser, he instinctively put his hands up to protect himself and briefly made contact with Justice Bradley's neck."

In March, the commission said it found probable cause to believe that Prosser violated the state code of judicial conduct. Bradley has 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.

Other accounts of the incident back up the story put forth Monday by Prosser, who was re-elected to the court last year and has asked that Bradley, Abrahamson, Justice Patience Roggensack and Justice Patrick Crooks to recuse themselves from the case because they are witnesses.

"(Prosser) did not put Justice Bradley in a 'chokehold,' as she publicly claimed," Prosser's answer says. "He did not 'choke' her. He did not apply pressure to her neck. He did not injure her or cause her any pain. She did not feel threatened."

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.

"This matter is outside the jurisdiction of the Judicial Commission because it involves matter discussed in a confidential conference. Justice Prosser cannot explain the context and provocation for this private comment without disclosing confidential material."

In April, the commission urged Richard Brown, the chief judge of the Court of Appeals, to create a three-judge panel to hear the case. Brown told the commission he can't form a panel to hear the case unless the Supreme Court tells him to.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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