Wisconsin justice says he doesn't start fights on courtWisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser said Tuesday that liberal-leaning justices have orchestrated the bitter infighting that has consumed the court to hurt his chances at re-election.
By: Todd Richmond, Associated Press, Superior Telegram
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser said Tuesday that liberal-leaning justices have orchestrated the bitter infighting that has consumed the court to hurt his chances at re-election.
Prosser and his opponent, Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg, appeared at a lunch forum sponsored by the Dane County Bar Association. A moderator asked each how they would improve civility on the court.
"Anyone who knows me ... should know I am not the source of conflict on the court," Prosser said. "I am castigated all the time by others on the court."
He said the liberal members of the court — generally seen as Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and her ally, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, although Prosser didn't mention anyone by name — have ganged up on him, trying to create a "foul atmosphere" and recruiting candidates against him.
Relations between the justices will improve after he's re-elected and the incentive to embarrass him is gone, he said.
Kloppenburg shot back that she's nobody's recruit and Prosser has done nothing to move the court beyond partisan bickering.
A message left with Supreme Court spokesman Tom Sheehan seeking a response from Abrahamson and Walsh Bradley after the forum wasn't immediately returned.
Justices are officially nonpartisan, but Prosser is a former Republican legislator. He is generally seen as part of a conservative-leaning bloc that has controlled the court since 2008.
Over the last several months the tensions between the conservative- and liberal-leaning justices has come into sharp public focus: Abrahamson in January called a public meeting to question why Justice Pat Roggensack asked for reimbursement for travel on a personal project. The conservative bloc in turn accused Abrahamson of overstepping her authority when she hired two assistants.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this week reported Prosser called Abrahamson a "bitch" and threatened to "destroy" her in February 2010. The remarks came as the court was debating a request from defense attorneys to remove Justice Mike Gableman from a criminal case, the newspaper reported. Prosser told the newspaper he made the remarks after Abrahamson and Walsh Bradley provoked him.
Prosser told the bar the justices should learn to be more tolerant of each other and suggested bringing in a third party to help restore civility.
Kloppenburg said she would move the court away from partisanship and personal biases by focusing on the positives each justice brings to the table.
Prosser also told the bar that Kloppenburg has aligned herself so closely with opponents of Republican Gov. Scott Walker's contentious collective bargaining law that she can't possibly decide the legal challenges to the law that will eventually find their way to the Supreme Court.
Kloppenburg said the depth of the controversy over the law underscores the need for impartial judges — something Prosser clearly is not.
The forum came less than 24 hours after the candidates met for a debate in Milwaukee on Monday evening. They have four more meetings scheduled before the April 5 election.