Milwaukee journal Sentinel: Justice Prosser was asked to get help for anger, sources say

Bradley made request after clash with Prosser

-By Patrick Marley and Emma Roller

June 28, 2011- Madison – Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley asked Justice David Prosser to seek therapy to manage his anger two days after she says he put his hands around her neck, but he declined to do so, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The request came June 15, when all the justices met with Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs to discuss the June 13 altercation between Prosser and Bradley. At least some of Prosser's fellow conservatives on the court said it would be ridiculous for him to take such courses, the sources said.

Bradley told the Journal Sentinel on Saturday that Prosser put his hands around her neck in what she called a "chokehold." Prosser has said other accounts quoting anonymous sources would be proved false, but he has not directly responded to Bradley's description of the incident.

Some sources familiar with what happened have backed Bradley's account, while others have said Bradley came at Prosser with her fists raised. Justices who witnessed it have declined to give their accounts or not returned calls.

The incident is being investigated separately by the Dane County sheriff's office and the Wisconsin Judicial Commission, which oversees the state ethics code for judges.

Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney personally distanced himself from the investigation Tuesday, saying he would not oversee it. Mahoney, a Democrat, endorsed Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg in her challenge to Prosser in the April 5 election.

"As the sheriff, I have no role in the assignment of detectives and supervisors or overseeing the investigation," Mahoney said in a statement.

Prosser has not hired an attorney, but a spokesman for him held out the possibility he would.

"He has not contracted with an attorney yet, but he plans to fully defend himself," Prosser spokesman Brian Nemoir said. "He'll do whatever is necessary to make sure he's properly represented." 

Tension over decision

According to sources familiar with the situation:

Four justices – Prosser, Michael Gableman, Patience Roggensack and Annette Ziegler – were frustrated on June 13 that a decision putting in place Gov. Scott Walker's plan to limit collective bargaining was not yet ready for release. The four made up the majority in the split decision, and they believed an agreement had been reached the Friday before to have the opinion ready to release on that day.

Walker's fellow Republicans who run the Legislature had insisted they needed a decision from the court by June 14, when they were to take up the state budget.

About 6 p.m. on June 13, Prosser and the others walked together to Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson's office. She wasn't there, so they went to Bradley's office, where Abrahamson and Bradley were.

The encounter quickly grew heated and did not last long – perhaps 10 minutes in all.

Bradley's chambers consist of three connected offices. Bradley and Abrahamson were in the office where Bradley herself works. The others were in a connecting room, with at least some of them positioned in the entryway into Bradley's office.

They argued about when the decision would be released and their frustrations over what the majority considered delays.

Bradley asked Prosser to leave, but he did not and the justices continued to argue. Abrahamson said she did not know when her opinion would be ready, saying it might take a month.

Prosser then told Abrahamson – with whom he has often clashed publicly and privately – he'd lost faith in her leadership. Bradley got close to Prosser and again demanded that he leave, with some sources saying she charged at him with her fists raised.

It is here that accounts differ most significantly, with some saying Prosser put his hands around Bradley's neck and others saying Prosser touched her after raising his hands in defense or to push her back.

Bradley yelled for Prosser to get his hands off her neck or that she was being choked, sources said. Roggensack pulled the two apart.

Justice N. Patrick Crooks was not there at the time, making him the only justice who was not in the vicinity. It is unclear how many judicial assistants and law clerks may have seen or heard the incident.

The decision on collective bargaining was ultimately released the next day, June 14, allowing Walker's plan to go into place. It goes into effect Wednesday. 


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