February 7, 2016

Prosser calls for recusal of fellow justices

A state Supreme Court justice is calling for the recusal of two of his colleagues from a pending ethics investigation. Justice David Prosser filed motions on Thursday asking for Justice Ann Walsh Bradley and Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson to step aside from making any decisions on a complaint brought against him.

The Wisconsin Judicial Commission is accusing Prosser of violating state ethics codes by allegedly choking Justice Bradley during an argument. The incident occurred last spring as the court debated the release of a decision upholding Governor Walker’s collective bargaining law. Prosser has argued he was defending himself because Bradley charged at him.

An investigation conducted by the Dane County Sheriff’s office found there was not enough evidence to justify criminal charges against anyone tied to the case. However, the Wisconsin Judicial Commission ruled Prosser likely violated three provisions of the state’s judicial code. The panel made no recommendation on what discipline Prosser should face, leaving the issue up to a review of appeals court judges. That process is still underway.

If the judges recommend any action against Prosser, he wants Bradley to recuse herself because of her role as a material and complaining witness. Prosser is calling on Abrahamson to remove herself from the case because she is listed as a witness and is “clearly biased” against him.

A message seeking comment from Justice Bradley was not returned. Chief Justice Abrahamson released a statement late Thursday saying it would be premature to respond to the recusal request because the matter is not yet before the court. Abrahamson also indicates she expects Prosser to file motions asking additional members of the Supreme Court to recuse themselves from hearing the case, if a request for discipline is forwarded to the court.

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