The Prosser Hit


Liberal hearts in Wisconsin and elsewhere raced with excitement over the weekend, after the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism published a bombshell report alleging that recently re-elected Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser attempted to strangle liberal Justice Ann Walsh Bradley during an argument last week. 

It seems the Wisconsin Supreme Court provides a tense working environment, with no love lost between the liberal bloc headed by Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and the more conservative justices.  Prosser has accused Abrahamson and Bradley of being “masters at deliberately goading people into perhaps incautious statements,” and claims she successfully goaded him into calling her a “total bitch” on at least one occasion. 

It’s disheartening to learn that a state Supreme Court is full of goading and bitching, instead of wisdom and scholarship, but as we have seen over the past year, Big Labor politics does not create a solemn environment for statecraft, especially when Big Labor is losing.

Last week found the justices discussing the defeat of Judge Maryann Sumi, whose wild over-reach of judicial power on behalf of the unions drew a stinging rebuke from the state Supreme Court.  Unsurprisingly, Abrahamson and Bradley did not agree with this decision.  When all but one of the justices were gathered in Bradley’s chambers to discuss the matter on the afternoon of June 13, some sort of physical confrontation between Prosser and Bradley occurred.

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism produced a report that portrayed this as Prosser assaulting Bradley.  Liberal blogs across the nation went wild, and began speculating about how quickly Prosser could be impeached and removed from office.

Then the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel got involved, and found so many contradictory sources that the WCIJ was forced to completely re-write its original piece.  The Journal-Sentinel’s new sources claim that Bradley attacked Prosser, whose hands made contact with her neck area when he raised them to defend himself.  Her assault was reportedly provoked by Prosser’s assertion that he had “lost all confidence” in the leadership of Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.  These sources relate that when Bradley started howling about her neck, one of the other justices calmly stated, “You were not choked.”

It is not clear if the WCIJ was aware of these sources and suppressed them to get the report it wanted, or if it was simply in such a hurry to rush out an explosive report with a single anonymous source that it didn’t do any further digging.  “Dishonest” and “sloppy” are the only two choices here, as the rapid mutation of the story after the involvement of real journalists illustrates.  The original story was supposedly a “joint investigation by Wisconsin Public Radio and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.”  How did all those joint investigators miss the conflicting sources swiftly discovered by the Journal-Sentinel?

Even the anonymous source that kicked off the story says Prosser “did not exert any pressure” during the encounter, but Bradley began describing it as a “choke hold.”  That sounds generally consistent with the kind of childish sandbox behavior that rules the Wisconsin Supreme Court chambers.  It’s also consistent with the behavior of people who don’t have any boxing or martial arts training, losing their cool during a heated argument.

Wisconsin blogger and lawyer Ann Althouse, who has followed the story carefully throughout the weekend, adds that “People may assume that the man is larger than the woman, but – from what I have heard – Bradley is significantly larger than Prosser. Bradley is also 7 years younger than Prosser, who is 68.”  None of that would excuse physically aggressive behavior on either of their parts, but it’s a meaningful data point when the public tries to draw uninformed – or misinformed – conclusions about who assaulted whom.

The Capitol Police and Wisconsin Judicial Commission have reportedly been notified about the incident, although the WJC will not “confirm or deny” that an investigation is under way.  Prosser has said little to the media, beyond asserting that the charges against him “will be proven false.”  Bradley has begun giving some interviews, telling the Journal-Sentinel that Prosser’s defenders are trying to “spin” the facts to “make it sound like I ran up to him threw my neck into his hands” – a sufficiently stupid description of the contradictory accounts to further damage her credibility, if not raise questions about her judicial ability.

If the Judicial Commission does investigate, and concludes that Bradley is the one who initiated the physical encounter, it will be fun watching the leftists who howled for Prosser’s impeachment twist themselves into pretzels and claim this was all just a silly misunderstanding… especially considering that Governor Scott Walker would appoint the replacements for either or both judges, if they were removed from the Court.