No Perp Walk for Wisconsin Judge

Judge Won’t Face Criminal Charges

A difference of opinion.

That’s the conclusion of an investigation into a charge by  Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley that fellow Justice  David Prosser put a chokehold on her when she told him to leave her office after a heated discussion.

Therefore, Justice Prosser will not face criminal charges.

“I believe a complete review of the report suggests there is a difference of opinion,” said Patricia Barrett, the Republican district attorney who served as  special prosecutor in the case.

Touched her neck

Justice Walsh Bradley, a Democrat, accused Justice Prosser, a former Republican legislator, of choking her in June  during a heated discussion on a legal challenge to the Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s contentious collective bargaining law, which strips most public workers of nearly all their union rights.  The incident occurred the night before the court released an opinion upholding the law.

The Milwaukee Sentinal reported that Justice Prosser acknowledged to detectives that he touched Justice Walsh Bradley’s neck – even feeling its warmth.

According to the  New York Times,  Justice Walsh Bradley issued a statement saying she was never focused on prosecuting her colleague and only wanted to address a “workplace safety issue.”

“I well understand the difficulty of gaining any criminal conviction,” she said. “The prosecution’s burden of proof is very heavy, as it should be. 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.”

Earlier, Justice Walsh Bradley told  The Milwaukee 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.”  Bradley said she  asked Prosser to leave after he made allegedly disparaging remarks about Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.

Justice Walsh Bradley is generally seen as part of the court’s three-justice liberal minority. Justice Prosser, a former Republican legislator, is considered part of the four-justice conservative majority.

Bradley said it was not the first time Prosser had flashes of extreme anger;  “It’s been going on for years off and on.”

The Wisconsin Judicial Commission, which oversees the state’s ethics code for judges, is separately investigating the case.

Wisconsin law protects judges

Interestingly, Wisconsin has a special criminal statute that relates to a battery or threat against a judge. It states:

940.203 Battery or threat to judge …
(2) Whoever intentionally causes bodily harm or threatens to
cause bodily harm to the person or family member of any judge
under all of the following circumstances is guilty of a Class H felony:
(a) At the time of the act or threat, the actor knows or should
have known that the victim is a judge or a member of his or her
family.
(b) The judge is acting in an official capacity at the time of the
act or threat or the act or threat is in response to any action taken
in an official capacity.
(c) There is no consent by the person harmed or threatened.

“Bodily harm” means physical pain or injury, illness, or any impairment of physical condition.

The penalty for a  Class H felonyis a fine not to exceed $10,000 or imprisonment not to exceed 6 years, or both.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Judge Out of Order?

Places Chokehold on Fellow Justice

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley has accused fellow Justice David Prosser of putting her in a chokehold during a dispute in her office on June 13, 2011,  a day before the Court’s decision upholding a bill to curtail the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Bradley said:  “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.”

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the story is not the alleged assault but the fact that an incident pf workplace violence was shrouded in secrecy for almost two weeks, until  Wisconsin Public Radio and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism published a story based upon anonymous sources.  Why was it necessary for  anonymous sources to disclose that one of Wisconsin’s high court judges had allegedly assaulted a fellow justice?  Where is the transparency?

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism  on June 25, 2011 quoted “at least three knowledgeable sources” who declined to be named but said, “other sources have offered a conflicting account.  Justice Prosser has declared that the claims, once investigated, will be ‘proven false.’”

There are competing versions of the incident. The Journal also quoted   a source who said Prosser made incidental contact with Bradley’s neck as he put up his hands in a defensive posture as Bradley rushed toward him “with fists up.”

The Wisconsin Judicial Commission, which  is charged with investigating allegations of misconduct involving judges, was informed of the alleged assault. However, a spokesman for the Commission said he could neither confirm nor deny whether the commission, which was informed of the incident, will investigate.

Judge Prosser’s judicial temperament was called into question earlier this year:

 In March, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that, in a disagreement over a case last year, Justice Prosser, 68, had called Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson a “total bitch” and threatened to “destroy” her. Prosser, the paper reported, confirmed making the remarks, saying he “probably overreacted” while accusing Justices Abrahamson and Bradley of being “masters at deliberately goading people into perhaps incautious statements.”