With a little bit of luck, the allegations of fisticuffs between two justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court will have a very happy ending for Wisconsin conservatives, no matter how it’s finally resolved.
The dispute involves Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and David Prosser. Bradley contends Prosser put her neck in a “chokehold” at a meeting in or near Bradley’s office a few weeks ago. Six of the seven Wisconsin justices were present. Prosser is not commenting, but witnesses say Bradley approached Prosser first with her fists raised. He stuck his hands out to block the threatened punch and touched her neck, this account goes.
The Dane County (Madison) sheriff and the Wisconsin Judicial Commission are investigating.
Prosser just won a new term on the court in a closely-fought election, defeating Madison liberal JoAnne Kloppenburg, a ally to the liberals on the bench. That preserved the 4-3 conservative majority on the court. Conservatives view the Bradley-Prosser brouhaha as aimed at unseating Prosser indirectly rather than at the ballot box. But as UW law professor and blogger Ann Althouse points out, there is no conservative downside here. Indeed, she says, there is a conservative upside.
The intrajudicial dispute started last Saturday morning with a joint report by Wisconsin Public Radio and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. The report stated in part:
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser allegedly grabbed fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley around the neck in an argument in her chambers last week, according to at least three knowledgeable sources.
Details of the incident, investigated jointly by Wisconsin Public Radio and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, remain sketchy. The sources spoke on the condition that they not be named, citing a need to preserve professional relationships.
They say an argument that occurred before the court’s release of a decision upholding a bill to curtail the collective bargaining rights of public employees culminated in a physical altercation in the presence of other justices. Bradley purportedly asked Prosser to leave her office, whereupon Prosser grabbed Bradley by the neck with both hands.
But later Saturday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported another side to the story:
Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley late Saturday accused fellow Justice David Prosser of putting her in a chokehold during a dispute in her office earlier this month.
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 told the Journal Sentinel.
Some [other sources] confirmed Bradley’s version. According to others, Bradley charged Prosser, who raised his hands to defend himself and made contact with her neck.”
As Byron York wrote in the Washington Examiner on Sunday, the liberal Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism article was picked up by another liberal activist group almost immediately, ThinkProgress, identifying four ways Prosser could be removed from office.
Christian Schneider of the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute provided a detailed – one could say an alleged blow-by-blow – report on the incident and its aftermath on National Review Online Tuesday:
According to one witness, Bradley charged toward Prosser, shaking her clenched fist in his face. Another source says they were “literally nose to nose.” Prosser then put his hands up to push her away … and in doing so, made contact with her neck.
At that moment, another justice approached Bradley from behind and pulled her away from Prosser, saying, “Stop it, Ann, this isn’t like you.” Bradley then shouted, “I was choked!” Another justice present replied, “You were not choked.” In a statement following the incident, Bradley maintained Prosser “put his hands around my neck in anger in a chokehold.”
Whether you believe what “he said” or what “she said” – a debate now raging on Wisconsin talk radio and in other media, even across the country – it could happen that either one or both of these two justices are forced to resign. Worst case, Althouse wisely notes, is Prosser is forced to resign. He is 68 years old, and his replacement would be appointed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who could select someone younger and more conservative than Prosser. That would preserve the status quo at 4-3 conservative.
But if Bradley, 61, is forced to resign and Prosser is not, Althouse continues, Gov. Walker would appoint her replacement, boosting the split on the court to 5-2. Again, this is a conservative win if Walker’s pick is someone younger and more conservative than Bradley.
The best possible outcome for conservatives, though, is that both of them resign or are removed. That would be a pick-two for Gov. Walker of two justices who are younger and more conservative than either Prosser or Bradley.
Conservatives win in any possible scenario, so let the battle rage. And let’s hope the Madison lefties don’t read Althouse’s blog or this one.