In the latest development on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, where conservative Justice David Prosser has been accused of physically assaulting liberal Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, the principal investigation of the matter has now been turned over to the Sheriff’s Office in Dane County (Madison).
The sheriff’s office said in a statement issued Monday:
Today, at the request of the Wisconsin Capital Police Department, the Dane County Sheriff’s Office opened an investigation into the June 13th incident involving an alleged altercation at the offices of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
The Dane County Sheriff’s Office recognizes the significance and sensitive nature of this investigation. Beginning today, detectives will work diligently to conduct a thorough and timely investigation. Because this case is in the very early stages, no further information is available at this time.
The Wisconsin State Journal reports that Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs, whose office had originally received a report of the alleged incident, has instead turned the matter over to the Dane County Sheriff’s office after consulting with members of the Supreme Court itself.
In addition, the Wisconsin Judicial Commission, which investigates alleged misconduct involving judges, released a statement Monday that it, too, is looking into the alleged incident:
The Wisconsin Judicial Commission confirms that it received information concerning an incident that occurred at the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The Commission authorized an investigation of the incident at its meeting on Friday, June 24, 2011. The investigation will be conducted without prejudgment in a fair and thorough manner in accord with Commission procedures set forth in Wis.Stats.§§757.81-757.99 and Chapter JC Wisconsin Administrative Code. These statutes and rules may be accessed through the Commission’s website, www.wicourts.gov/judcom.
Judicial Commission proceedings are confidential pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 757.93. The above information, however, is provided in accord with Wis. Stat. § 757.93(2).
The Commission will have no further comment.
The alleged incident reportedly occurred during an argument over the court’s recent decision regarding the upholding of Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-public employee union legislation. Bradley said over the weekend, “The facts are that I was demanding that he get out of my office and he put his hands around my neck in anger in a chokehold.”
For his part, Prosser — who had initially declined to publicly comment — released a statement of denial, adding that he would make no further public comments: “Once there’s a proper review of the matter and the facts surrounding it are made clear, the anonymous claim made to the media will be proven false. Until then I will refrain from further public comment.”
Back in March, the state of civility on the court became an issue in Prosser’s re-election campaign, when it was reported that in 2010 he had called another one of the court’s liberals, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, a “total bitch” and threatened to “destroy” her. At the time this was reported, Prosser seemed to simultaneously back off from and stick by the comment, blaming both Abrahamson and Bradley, the latter of whom he is now accused of assaulting:
“I probably overreacted, but I think it was entirely warranted…They (Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley) are masters at deliberately goading people into perhaps incautious statements. This is bullying and abuse of very, very long standing.”