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Judge Describes Violence That Led to Choking

MADISON, Wisc. (CN) - A Wisconsin Supreme Court justice recused herself from the misconduct case against a colleague accused of trying to strangle her over a year ago.

The Wisconsin Judicial Commission has accused Justice David Prosser of violating three provisions of the Wisconsin Judicial Code after allegedly attempting to strangle Justice Ann Bradley.

In recusing herself from the case Wednesday, Bradley said: "This is and remains for me an issue of workplace safety."

Her six-page order describes Prosser's "history of abusive behavior," involving "rages," "threats" and "now physical contact."

Bradley has alleged that Prosser put her in a chokehold while the two argued in her office over Wisconsin's controversial anti-union Budget Repair Bill. The argument took place on June 13, 2011, the night before the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the law stripping most public-sector unions of most of their collective bargaining rights.

At the time, Bradley stated: "I'm confident the appropriate authorities will conduct a thorough investigation of this incident involving abusive behavior in the workplace." A police investigation by the Dane County Sheriff's Department took place two weeks later.

Bradley's letter of recusal says she had taken steps to increase security months before the alleged June 2011 altercation.

In 2010, she and another justice met with the director of state courts "asking that something be done about Justice Prosser because ... there was an escalation in violence."

Nothing was done at the time, but a year later Bradley said the deputy director of state courts contacted her and warned "of her concern that Justice Prosser may endanger [my] physical safety as well as that of the chief justice."

Bradley said the court then devised a security plan.

"Because the danger came from the inside and not the outside, the locked entry doors that limit public access to the area of the supreme court offices were not a sufficient protection," she wrote.

Bradley and Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson began locking themselves inside their offices at night and on the weekends. They were allegedly told that law enforcement would have a heavier patrol presence at the Capitol in the evenings and were given the personal cell, work cell, squad cell, and home phone numbers of Capitol Chief of Police Charles Tubbs.

After the alleged incident, all seven members of the high court met to discuss "workplace security" took place, she noted.

Bradley said she told her fellow justices that she was "no longer willing to tolerate Justice Prosser's abusive behavior and asked for a commitment that [we] deal with the issue."

The letter of recusal is especially critical of Justice Patience Roggensack, a conservative justice who is running in the primary on Tuesday.

Roggensack allegedly minimized Prosser's behavior and blamed it on others, which is Bradley describes as incredible since Prosser admitted to authorities that "he remembers the warmth on the side of [my] neck in his hands."

The case currently lacks a majority to proceed because of other justices recusing themselves.

Justice Prosser has successfully argued that without a quorum, the court cannot move his disciplinary case to the next step, a three-judge panel, which would hold a public hearing on the allegations.

"Justice Prosser's procedural maneuvers, designed to foreclose any opportunity for a public hearing, have deprived this court of a quorum and may deprive the people of this state a full opportunity to learn what happened when four justices simultaneously appeared at my office on the evening of June 13, 2011, demanding that an after-hours press release be immediately issued," Bradley wrote.

The justice urged her fellow justices to reform the process for disciplining justices, noting that "the current system destroys collegiality, compromises accountability, and contributes to the dysfunction of the courtallow an expert on conflict resolution to assist in solving their workplace safety issues."

Bradley also wants the court to reconsider "bringing in an expert on conflict resolution who would assist [us] in addressing and resolving issues that hinder [us] from best serving the people of this state."

A 4-3 majority of the court already defeated this proposal.

Prosser, a known conservative, returned to the bench in April 2011 after his first 10-year term when he defeated 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.

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