Wisconsin state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) has responded — with some surprise and a bit of sarcastic humor — to the reports that emerged over the weekend of conservative state Supreme Court Justice David Prosser being accused of grabbing liberal Justice Ann Walsh Bradley by the neck in a chokehold.
“Wow! The Supreme Court is crazier than the Legislature apparently,” said Fitzgerald, the Wisconsin State Journal reports.
On a more serious note, Fitzgerald said “it appears something happened” but that the details were hazy.
Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R), who is Scott Fitzgerald’s younger brother, told reporters that he “had not heard anything” about a physical incident until he saw the news reports on Saturday.
The legislature has indeed had its fair share of dysfunction. Most famously, in February and March the minority state Senate Democrats fled the state in order to block a three-fifths budget quorum, in an effort to prevent the passage of Walker’s anti-union bill. Ultimately, the bill the was passed anyway through the use of a special conference committee to strip out non-fiscal items, and pass it on a simple-majority quorum.
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.”