NEWS BLOG (WSAU) The timing was unmistakable.
The now-infamous state Supreme Court choking happened in 2010. Justice Ann Walsh-Bradley, the alleged victim at the hands of fellow-justice David Prosser, had said nothing publicly about the case – until yesterday, 6 days before the primary.
Even more curious than the timing is the way the statement was made. It was a four-page opinion about why Walsh-Bradley decided not to take part in the ethics investigation against Prosser. She could have issued a sentence statement: “because I have direct personal involvement with the case, I am recusing myself from the David Prosser ethics investigation.” Instead the Walsh-Bradley missive rebuts the comments made at a candidate forum by Pat Roggensack, the justice who’s up for reelection. Roggensack offered the opinion that the justices are getting along much better now, and that she wouldn’t run for reelection if there was a high level of acrimony on the court.
Walsh-Bradley “discloses” three items that were not widely known: First, before the incident she and Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson had gone to capitol police about Justice Prosser’s temper. Second, that she was indeed choked – not some accidental stumble and hands-around-the-neck accidental touching. Third, that she and Abrahamson still lock their office doors when they’re working at night, fearful for their safety.
Much of this seems like a red herring. Surely Walsh-Bradley knows that justice Prosser’s anger is the most-monitored-temperament in state government. Since the allegations against him are so public, he must be nothing short of ‘Gentleman David’ in public, on the bench, and in private. Indeed, it is Justice Prosser who needs to keep his office door locked. There’s too great a risk that false allegations might be made if one of his rival-justices ever created a situation where they were alone with him.
Former capitol police chief Charlie Tubbs deserves special criticism. Tubbs is most-often associated with losing control of the capitol building and grounds during the Act 10 protests. Tubbs failed the test of basic police skills in the Prosser case. When Walsh-Bradley first came to him with safety concerns, he set up a personal security plan – giving her a special cellphone, briefing her on what to do if she was threatened, and arranging for security escorts to her car. This is a tremendous miscalculation by the police chief. Every good cop knows that for every ticket, citation, or arrest they made they can diffuse many more situations by talking. Imagine if Tubbs went to Prosser right after the initial complaint was received. “Justice Prosser,” he might say, “one of your colleagues says you have a temper. If you get out of line, I’ll have to do something about it.” That would be good policing. Prosser would be on-notice. The problem, most likely, would have been solved.
There are several difficult personalities on our highest court. The Chief Justice goads and mocks people… she’s done it to lawyers from the bench, and to other justices on the court. Walsh-Bradley is a passive-aggressive juvenile. Those qualities are likely to push the buttons of someone who has a quick-trigger temper, like Prosser. It’s frustrating to work with child-like people.