David T. Prosser Jr., a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice accused of ethics code violations for allegedly putting his hands around the neck of colleague Ann Walsh Bradley, said she shouldn’t play any role in judging him.
Prosser’s alleged altercation with Bradley occurred when the two had a disagreement last year over the fate of a law limiting Wisconsin public employee collective-bargaining rights.
He breached rules requiring judges be “patient, dignified and courteous” to others in the court system, special prosecutor Franklyn M. Gimbel, a Milwaukee lawyer, said in a filing with the high court last month seeking the imposition of sanctions. Prosser also breached rules that judges must cooperate and maintain high standards of conduct to ensure the integrity of the judiciary, Gimbel said. He asked for a three-judge panel for a trial.
Prosser’s lawyers, in a filing today, said Bradley should recuse herself and not participate in the review.
“It is evident that Justice Bradley is disqualified from participation in this matter and must withdraw,” Prosser’s attorneys said.
“Justice Bradley is not only a material witness but also a central figure in leaking skewed representations” of incidents cited in the complaint to the news media and the instigator of a criminal investigation against Prosser, his lawyers said.
In a separate filing, Prosser also asked that the state Supreme Court’s chief judge, Shirley Abrahamson, also recuse herself, asserting that she, too, is a material witness and that she is “clearly biased against Prosser.”
The three-judge panel that would hear Gimbel’s case against Prosser would be drawn from the 12 members of the state’s intermediate level appellate court and not the seven-member Supreme Court said Amanda Todd, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin court system. That the panel hasn’t yet been selected.
If the panel found Prosser had violated one or more ethics rules, it would be up to the Supreme Court to decide an appropriate sanction, which could be a written reprimand, suspension without pay or removal from office.
While Abrahamson referred calls for comment to her, Todd said she had no immediate comment on behalf of the justice.
“The anger and accusations contained in his latest filing and his past attacks on the integrity of the judicial commission cause me great concern,” Bradley said in a statement. “Justice Prosser’s motion is rife with inaccurate statements and unfounded attacks.”
As a judge, “I have dedicated myself to deciding cases in a fair, neutral, impartial and non- partisan manner,” she said. “I will apply those principles when I file my written response to Justice Prosser’s motion.”
A different special prosecutor last year declined to issue criminal charges against Prosser or Bradley related to the incident after Bradley filed a police report.
Prosser responded to the later-filed ethics charges by saying he never intentionally touched Bradley’s neck, according to a statement distributed by Supreme Court spokesman Tom Sheehan on March 16. The judge called the charges against him “partisan, unreasonable and largely untrue.”
“They will be vigorously contested because I am innocent,” Prosser said.
The high court ultimately split 4-3 on the question of whether the collective-bargaining legislation was lawfully adopted with Prosser in the majority and Bradley in the minority. Abrahamson wrote a minority opinion, to which Bradley concurred.
The case is In re Matter of Judicial Disciplinary Proceedings Against the Hon. David T. Prosser, 12 AP 566J, Wisconsin Supreme Court.