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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Madison Strangler

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One of the dishonest tactics commonly used by conservative candidates for the Wisconsin Supreme Court is to promise to be tough on crime.

The Supreme Court is an appellate court primarily concerned with civil legal questions, not violent crimes. Except, of course, when it's an inside job.

Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley has charged that volatile Supreme Court Justice David Prosser angrily put his hands around her throat in a chokehold after she ordered him out of her office.

With the Madison Strangler stalking the offices of the Supreme Court itself, it's high time for the justices, particularly those who claim to be conservative, to live up to all their tough talk.

Then again, when the miscreant is one of their own, the court's self-proclaimed conservatives have a history of overlooking legal and ethical lapses. Why should physical attacks be any different?

It's no secret that Prosser has a problem with women on the court. Before his re-election in April, Prosser admitted angrily calling Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson "a total bitch" and threatening to "destroy" her.

Prosser's defense was to blame those mean women, Abrahamson and Bradley, for provoking him into offensive behavior.

"I think it was entirely warranted," Prosser said of his verbal abuse. "They (Abrahamson and Bradley) are masters at deliberately goading people into perhaps incautious statements. This is bullying and abuse of very, very long standing."

The accusation that Prosser crossed the line into physically laying hands on Bradley also apparently was the result of Prosser's loathing of Abrahamson.

The altercation between Prosser and Bradley occurred in the presence of six of the seven justices, including Prosser's conservative cronies, Michael Gableman, Annette Ziegler and Pat Roggensack, as well as the more liberal Abrahamson. N. Patrick Crooks, a conservative who has sided with Abrahamson and Bradley in recent years, was not present.

One justice, apparently one of Prosser's conservative colleagues, told a reporter Bradley ordered Prosser out of her office because he "was attacking the chief justice." Before leaving, the witness said, Prosser "put his hands around her neck in what she (Bradley) described as a chokehold." It was "in no way playful."

Another anonymous justice, clearly more sympathetic to Prosser, claimed Bradley herself was moving toward Prosser "with fists raised." That witness said Prosser "put his hands in a defensive posture" and accidentally made contact with Bradley's neck.

Bradley belittled that description as absurd: "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."

The incident took place the day before the court majority released a tortured legal opinion reinstating Republican elimination of collective bargaining rights for public employees without following the state's open meetings law, claiming such laws "apply to the Legislature except when the Legislature says they do not."

If the Legislature doesn't have to obey state laws, surely Prosser doesn't either.

Because if Prosser were required to obey our laws, here's one that would seem to apply: "Whoever intentionally causes bodily harm or threatens to cause bodily harm to the person or family member of any judge...is guilty of a Class H felony."

The complaint against Prosser is now in the hands of the Capitol Police and the Wisconsin Judicial Commission.

Corruption Continues

But anyone who expects anything to happen to Prosser even if the investigations show he broke the law hasn't been paying any attention to the open corruption of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

You see, the ultimate authority on the law in Wisconsin is the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

And even though many call the current majority on this Supreme Court "conservative," they are not the kind of conservatives who believe in upholding the law—at least not against themselves or their fellow Republicans.

If the Wisconsin Judicial Commission charged Prosser with misconduct, he would be the third member of the four-member, so-called conservative majority to be charged with misconduct. Anybody remember what happened to the other two?

Ziegler, charged with failing to recuse herself and disclose her conflict of interest in cases involving companies in which she owned stock and a bank where her husband sat on the board of directors, received—get this—a reprimand. Ow. Her poor wrist.

Gableman, charged with lying about former Justice Louis Butler in a racist campaign ad, didn't receive even that mild rebuke. A divided court issued no punishment at all.

Prosser, just re-elected by a razor-thin margin in a highly questionable election, has no intention of resigning. The Legislature's Republican leadership, granted a license to break the law by Prosser's court majority, certainly won't impeach him.

So, in August, Prosser will begin another 10-year term on Wisconsin's highest court. The Madison Strangler can't be recalled until he's been in office for a year.

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