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Wis. High Court Justice |Announces Retirement

MADISON, Wis. (CN) — Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser will retire on July 31, leaving another open seat on the conservative-majority court that Republican Gov. Scott Walker will fill.

Prosser, whose term ends in 2021, has served on the Badger State's high court for 18 years, appointed by Gov. Tommy Thompson in 1998 after 18 years in the Legislature, according to the Wisconsin Supreme Court's Public Information Office.

A member of the 5-2 conservative majority, 73-year-old Prosser authored more than 180 lead or majority opinions and "countless" dissents and concurrences, his official biography states.

Prosser will be replaced by another Walker appointee, the second in less than a year. Walker appointed Rebecca Bradley to the court to replace the late Justice Patrick Crooks, who died in his chambers on Sept. 21, 2015. He was 77.

Bradley defeated Prosser's former rival, appeals judge JoAnne Kloppenburg, in an election earlier this month.

Prosser faced Kloppenburg during the contentious debate over Walker's Act 10 legislation in 2011, which stripped many public employees of their right to collectively bargain on issues other than salary.

Conflicting reports from that time describe a physical altercation in chambers between Prosser and liberal judge Ann Walsh Bradley, with the latter claiming Prosser grabbed her throat when she asked him to leave her office.

Prosser denied this, claiming he was defending himself against a charging Bradley, and no charges were filed.

But the story, among others, got national attention, highlighting a very contentious Wisconsin Supreme Court and potentially tarnishing Prosser's reputation, said Marquette University's Paul Nolette, an assistant professor of political science.

"Prosser, generally speaking, was pretty well-respected among litigants and lawyers and a lot of the legal community," Nolette said in a phone interview Thursday. "In recent years, something that came to really overshadow that was some of the kind of rough interpersonal relations that were going on in the court, you know, especially with the liberals on the court."

His replacement, while likely to preserve the court's "solid" conservative majority, has the capacity to improve some of the "bad feelings" that have developed since the Act 10 dust-up, Nolette said.

Prosser's 1998 appointment received unusual bipartisan support from the Legislature, according to news reports from that time.

He had spent the years prior as the minority leader and speaker in the Wisconsin legislature, after working as an aide to a U.S. congressman and as an "attorney advisor" to the U.S. Department of Justice, according to his biography.

According to Ballotpedia, Prosser's replacement will not face an election until 2020.

There can be only one Wisconsin Supreme Court election per year, according to the website, and there are already elections slated for the next three years — two for seats currently held by conservatives, one by a liberal.

Nolette offered no specific guesses on a replacement, but expects another person like Bradley, who Walker either appointed or knows very well.

Prosser said in a letter announcing his retirement that he has "been so blessed."

"Serving on the Wisconsin Supreme Court has been an honor beyond description," the outgoing judge wrote.

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