Excerpt: "'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,' Bradley told the Journal Sentinel."
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices David T. Prosser, Jr. and Ann Walsh Bradley consider oral arguments during a hearing regarding the state's budget bill at the Wisconsin State Capitol, 06/06/11. (photo: John Hart/AP)
Bradley Bluntly Accuses Prosser of Assaulting Her
26 June 11
While reports up until this point remained largely "unconfirmed," Justice Ann Walsh Bradley's direct statement that Justice David Prosser placed her in a "chokehold" leaves no doubt that she is alleging assault. Additionally, several other Justices now confirm that an altercation did take place. -- ma/RSN
Justices' feud gets physical. Prosser, Bradley clashed on eve of union ruling.
upreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley late Saturday accused fellow Justice David Prosser of putting her in a chokehold during a dispute in her office earlier this month.
"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," Bradley told the Journal Sentinel.
Sources told the Journal Sentinel two very different stories Saturday about what occurred. Some confirmed Bradley's version. According to others, Bradley charged Prosser, who raised his hands to defend himself and made contact with her neck.
A joint investigation by Wisconsin Public Radio and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism first reported on the incident early Saturday, stating that Prosser "allegedly grabbed" Bradley around the neck.
Before Bradley spoke to the Journal Sentinel, Prosser issued a statement that said: "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."
A source who spoke to several justices present during the incident told the Journal Sentinel that the confrontation occurred after 5:30 p.m. June 13, the day before the high court's release of a decision upholding a bill to curtail the collective bargaining rights of public employees.
Six of the court's seven justices - Justice N. Patrick Crooks was not present - had gathered in Bradley's chambers. Some were informally discussing the decision.
The conversation grew heated, and Bradley asked Prosser to leave. Bradley was bothered by disparaging remarks Prosser had made about Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, a source said.
Bradley felt Prosser "was attacking the chief justice," the source said.
Before leaving, Prosser "put his hands around her neck in what (Bradley) described as a chokehold," the source said.
"He did not exert any pressure, but his hands were around her neck," the source said.
The source said the act "was in no way playful."
But another source told the Journal Sentinel that Bradley attacked Prosser.
"She charged him with fists raised," the source said.
Prosser "put his hands in a defensive posture," the source said. "He blocked her."
In doing so, the source said, he made contact with Bradley's neck.
Argument Over Decision
Another source said the justices were arguing over the timing of the release of the opinion, which legislative leaders had insisted they needed by June 14 because of their work on the state budget. As the justices discussed the case, Abrahamson said she didn't know whether the decision would come out this month, the source said.
At that point, Prosser said he'd lost all confidence in her leadership. Bradley then came across the room "with fists up," the source said. Prosser put up his hands to push her back.
Bradley then said she had been choked, according to the source. Another justice - the source wouldn't say who - responded, "You were not choked."
In an interview, Bradley said: "You can try to spin those facts and try to make it sound like I ran up to him and threw my neck into his hands, but that's only spin.
"Matters of abusive behavior in the workplace aren't resolved by competing press releases. I'm confident the appropriate authorities will conduct a thorough investigation of this incident involving abusive behavior in the workplace."
The other justices didn't return calls or declined to comment.
Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs was notified of the incident, a source told the Journal Sentinel. Tubbs met with the entire Supreme Court about the incident, the source said.
Sources told the Center for Investigative Journalism that the matter was called to the attention of the Wisconsin Judicial Commission, which investigates allegations of misconduct involving judges. James Alexander, executive director of the commission, said that "we can neither confirm nor deny" that the incident was under investigation. Prosser, a former Republican legislator who served as Assembly speaker, was appointed to the court in 1998 by Gov. Tommy G. Thompson. He won a high-profile April election that was often cast as a referendum of sorts on the policies of Republican Gov. Scott Walker, including his effort to eliminate most collective bargaining for public employees. Prosser, after a recount, defeated challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg by 7,000 votes out of nearly 1.5 million cast.
The decision was released late in the afternoon of June 14, only eight days after the court heard oral arguments on the case. On June 13, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) had suggested that the court could rule on the matter soon, saying his party intended to introduce the changes as a budget amendment the following day if the court did not act by then.
The 4-3 decision, which held that Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi overstepped her authority in voiding the bill, was notably contentious. Abrahamson, the chief justice, wrote a stinging dissent chiding the majority for "hastily reaching judgment" on a ruling that was "disingenuous, based on disinformation," "lacking a reasoned, transparent analysis" and laden with "numerous errors of law and fact."
Abrahamson singled out Prosser for criticism, calling his concurrence "long on rhetoric and long on storytelling that appears to have a partisan slant. Like the order, the concurrence reaches unsupported conclusions." She said the ruling "seems to open the court unnecessarily to the charge that the majority has reached a predetermined conclusion not based on the facts and the law."
Infighting has plagued the court in recent years and often spilled into the public. The court's rancor became a campaign issue for Prosser this spring, but he insisted he was not the cause of the problem. He said during debates that he was confident the internal disputes on the court would fade quickly once he was re-elected.
Prosser acknowledged in March that he called Abrahamson a "bitch" and threatened to "destroy" her during a closed-door meeting.
At the time, Prosser told the Journal Sentinel that the outburst to Abrahamson came after the chief justice took steps to undermine him politically and to embarrass him and other court conservatives.
"In the context of this, I said, 'You are a total bitch,'" Prosser said. "I probably overreacted, but I think it was entirely ... warranted. They (Abrahamson and Bradley) are masters at deliberately goading people into perhaps incautious statements. This is bullying and abuse of very, very long standing."
In a March interview, Bradley said Prosser had flashes of extreme anger on and off over the years.
"It's been going on for years off and on," she said.
After Prosser's outburst, Bradley sent an email to him and other justices saying the behavior was unacceptable. She said this March that from the time of her email until then there had been no incidents of similar magnitude.
She said she sent the email in an effort to stop Prosser from behaving inappropriately.
"I've been trying over the years to (figure out) best how to deal with it and one way is to call it out, and that's what this email was," Bradley said in March. "I've thought of other ways that have been unsuccessful. This was to describe it as it is and then you can deal with it."
At the time of Prosser's outburst to Abrahamson, Bradley said she considered going to law enforcement.
It "crossed my mind but I didn't want to do it," she said.
"This ... for me at least in part is about the institution," she added. "This behavior shouldn't be occurring at the workplace."
An hour and a half before sending her Feb. 18, 2010, email to all the justices, Bradley sent an email to Abrahamson and Crooks expressing her frustration with Prosser's outbursts.
"As you both know, I am no longer willing to tolerate Prosser's abusive behavior," Bradley wrote. "I have been at a loss just how to proceed."
Sharif Durhams of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.
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