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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Issue of the Week: Our Sad Supreme Court

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State Supreme Court Justice David Prosser has utterly disgraced himself. Even before his April re-election there were serious questions about his temperament—most prominently evidenced by his calling Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson a "bitch"—as well as his allegiance to his former Republican colleagues in the state Legislature.

Since then, we've learned that Prosser allegedly tried to put Justice Ann Walsh Bradley in a chokehold when he wanted the court to rush a decision on the open meetings case so that the conservative justices could meet a Legislature-driven timeline. We've also seen Prosser grab a microphone from a male reporter during an interview, a sign that he's as volatile with men as he is with women.

So it's no surprise that women's rights groups, activists and lawmakers are asking Prosser to step down while an investigation against him is pending. One Wisconsin Now has collected 10,000 signatures asking Prosser to resign immediately.

While Prosser is definitely a problematic justice, he's not alone. It takes four to build a majority. Prosser's fellow conservative justices—Michael Gableman, Patience Roggensack and Annette Ziegler—also have checkered histories on the bench.

Roggensack, the next justice who is up for re-election, has been a disappointment to everyone but the big-business lobby. Her term ends in 2013.

Ziegler, elected in spite of numerous ethical violations, has yet to show that she's an independent thinker or fair-minded jurist.

But the most offensive justice is Michael Gableman, who sponsored and personally approved the most race-baiting, hateful ad in a Supreme Court campaign this state has ever seen. Gableman's fellow conservatives got him off the hook, but the nasty way he won election and his presence on the court is at the root of many of the problems among the justices.

Not surprisingly, Gableman is a close ally of Prosser on the bench. Gableman even spoke glowingly of Prosser at Republican Party events this spring at the same time Prosser was campaigning for re-election. Gableman is also the likely author of the rushed open meetings decision, although no justice had the courage to sign the decision and take ownership of it.

We applaud the pressure that fair-minded Wisconsinites are putting on Prosser. We also remind them that Prosser has three awful allies, especially Gableman, on the court. All of them need to go.


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