Wisconsin Judges in Alleged Fracas Won’t Be Charged, DA Says

Two Wisconsin state Supreme Court justices who allegedly had a violent encounter over collective-bargaining legislation won’t face charges, said a state district attorney appointed as special prosecutor to review the incident.

“I have determined that no criminal charges will be filed” against David Prosser or Ann Walsh Bradley for the incident on June 13, Sauk County District Attorney Patricia Barrett said today in a statement.

The alleged altercation between the judges took place while the top state court was grappling with what became a decision the next day reinstating legislation limiting public employees’ ability to engage in collective bargaining.

Dane County Chief Judge C. William Foust earlier this month selected Barrett from neighboring Sauk County to review the incident at the request of Dane District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, who said he wanted to avoid allegations that any action he took was politically motivated.

The Supreme Court is in the state capital, Madison, which is also the Dane county seat. Ozanne’s office in March filed the lawsuit challenging Governor Scott Walker’s collective-bargaining legislation, which led to the June Supreme Court ruling.

According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Bradley accused Prosser of putting her in a chokehold, a claim that Prosser denied.

Civility, Personal Control

The court’s chief justice, Shirley S. Abrahamson, called for Barrett’s decision to be “respected,” and said each of her colleagues owed the others, and the people of Wisconsin, “civility and personal control” of their language, demeanor and temperament.

She also said she would propose to her six colleagues that they presume the court’s conferences are open to the public. The panel resumes hearing oral arguments on Sept. 6.

“The Wisconsin Supreme Court has a long history and a reputation for excellence, a reputation that all justices must uphold,” Abrahamson said. “As Chief Justice, I remain committed -- as ever -- that the court be maintained as a place where disputes are resolved, not created.”

Prosser didn’t respond to a phone message seeking comment.

“My focus from the outset has not been one of criminal prosecution, but rather addressing workplace safety,” Bradley said in an e-mailed statement. “I also know that criminal charges alone would not have addressed our safety in the workplace and the special prosecutor’s decision not to file charges does not resolve the safety issue, either.”

With the possibility of prosecution eliminated, Bradley said she would “renew” her efforts to seek the cooperation of her colleagues in achieving “the safe workplace that all employees -- private and public -- are entitled to under the law.”