In the latest sign of just how politically difficult it’s proving to mount an investigation into the alleged physical altercation at the Wisconsin Supreme Court — in which liberal Justice Ann Walsh Bradley has accused conservative Justice David Prosser of grabbing her neck in a chokehold — Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne has announced that he will ask a judge to appoint a special prosecutor, rather than make a decision on the matter himself.
The key point here is that the incident in the court occurred during an argument over the court’s decision to uphold Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-public employee union legislation, with Prosser in the court’s 4-3 conservative majority and Bradley in the liberal minority. And for his part, Ozanne is a Democratic official, and more importantly he was the lead plaintiff seeking to have the law blocked on procedural grounds.
In his statement, Ozanne said that he does not think he or his office would be unfair in making a determination, but he wishes to avoid the appearance of a political conflict.
“Process matters. How we do our jobs is just as important as what we do in our jobs. The people of this State deserve to feel confident in the rule of law and the exercise of discretion by their constitutional officers,” Ozanne said in a statement. “I take this action not because I feel this office wouldn’t be fair, but so that any decision can be free from accusations to ensure the public’s trust in the system and to allow the incident to be reviewed on the merits with no appearance of political motivation for any decisions or outcome.”
This is far from the first time the case has been passed around. The state Capitol Police were the ones initially investigating it, before turning it over to the Dane County Sheriff’s office. Then, Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney (D), who was elected as a Democrat in a partisan election and has supported liberal Supreme Court candidates and incumbent justices (including Prosser’s opponent earlier this year) transferred it through a trail of his subordinates, so that he would play no active personal role in the matter.
That investigation from the sheriff’s office has now been completed, and received by the district attorney’s office — with the next step being that Ozanne is seeking a special prosecutor in order to avoid the appearance of conflict.