MILWAUKEE (CN) – Justice David Prosser, whose narrow electoral victory preserved the Republican hold on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, is said to have put a chokehold on fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley while they argued over the fate of Wisconsin’s anti-union Budget Repair Bill.
The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and Wisconsin Public Radio initially reported on Saturday that “at least three knowledgeable sources” who requested anonymity, “citing a need to preserve professional relationships,” said that Prosser and Bradley had argued about the ruling the day before it was issued in front of other justices.
The sources said the verbal altercation became so heated it turned physical. According to the joint report, “They say Bradley purportedly asked Prosser to leave her office, whereupon Prosser grabbed Bradley by the neck with both hands.”
Another source told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, “[Bradley] charged him with fists raised. Prosser put his hands in a defensive posture. He blocked her.” In doing so, the source said, Prosser made contact with Bradley’s neck.
Today, the Wisconsin Judicial Commission issued a statement confirming “that it received information concerning an incident that occurred at the Wisconsin Supreme Court,” and saying it would investigate this incident.
Prosser and Bradley declined comment to initial inquiries by the Center for Investigative Journalism. But Prosser later told the Journal-Sentinel: “Once there’s a proper review of the matter and the facts surrounding it are made clear, the anonymous claim made to the media will be proven false. Until then I will refrain from further public comment.”
Bradley replied: “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. Those are the facts and you can try to spin those facts and try to make it sound like I ran up to him and threw my neck into his hands, but that’s only spin.
“Matters of abusive behavior in the workplace aren’t resolved by competing press releases,” Bradley said. “I’m confident the appropriate authorities will conduct a thorough investigation of this incident involving abusive behavior in the workplace.”
The Journal-Sentinel reported that the incident was reported to the Capitol Police and that Police Chief Charles Tubbs met with the entire state Supreme Court. Today, he released the following statement: “After consulting with members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, I have turned over the investigation into an alleged incident in the court’s offices on June 13, 2011 to Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney. Sheriff Mahoney has agreed to investigate this incident and all inquiries about the status of the investigation should be made with the Sheriff’s Department.”
The so-called Budget Repair Bill has caused political upheaval throughout the state, and nation, since it was introduced in February. Thousands of protesters and supporters rallied at the Capitol, causing an angry divide, and nine state Senators face recall elections in July.
With the likelihood that the Supreme Court would determine the fate of the bill, the off-year justice race was intense. Prosser was considered a shoo-in to win a second 10-year term until Gov. Scott Walker and his Republican legislative majority pushed the bill through in a special session, without a quorum, then published it in defiance of a judge’s order. The ensuing political bloodbath energized Democrats and public workers.
Prosser returned to the bench after defeating the Democrats’ candidate in the ostensibly nonpartisan, JoAnne Kloppenburg. After a recount, the Government Accountability Board gave the election to Prosser by 7,004 votes, or 0.46 percent, keeping the state Supreme Court at a 4-3 Republican majority.
Less than two weeks ago, the state Supreme Court upheld Wisconsin’s controversial anti-union law in a 4-3 decision, paving the way for the bill, officially known as 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, to take effect. The Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the law one week after hearing oral arguments, which lasted more than 5 hours.