Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, Governor Scott Walker’s mentor and chief ally on the state’s highest court bench, has admitted that he called the state’s chief justice a “bitch” and threatened to “destroy” her.
Prosser now stands accused of physically attacking another woman on the court, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley. Bradley has confirmed reports that, as the court was debating a Prosser’s push to get the high court to defend Walker’s anti-labor agenda, Prosser attacked her, grabbed her around the neck and put her in a chokehold.
Prosser has issued a vague statement suggesting that charges against him will be proven false when an investigation of the incident is completed.
No other member of the court has spoken on the record about what happened, although several justices were present when Prosser entered Bradley’s office, refused to leave and then allegedly attacked her.
Unfortunately, Walker’s media echo chamber has had some success in spinning bizarre claims that Prosser was either provoked—as he claimed was the case when he spewed obscenities at Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and then threatened to destroy her—or that he was attacked by Bradley. Neutral players, such as former Justice Janine Geske, who was appointed to the high court by former Republican Governor Tommy Thompson, have come to Bradley’s defense.
But still the spin continues, and it has even been picked up by mainstream media outlets that have begun to play the game of suggesting that a woman who is attacked must somehow share the blame for her victimhood.
This crude calculus has unsettled and offended members of Wisconsin women’s rights organizations and elected officials from across the state, and on Tuesday they called for Prosser to take a leave from office until investigations—by the Dane County Sheriff’s office and the state Judicial Commission—are complete.
A veteran state representative, members of the Milwaukee and Madison school boards, county supervisors from urban and rural regions of the state and the president of the Madison City Council are among those calling for Prosser to take a step aside until the investigation is completed.
“Justice Prosser has a history of abusive behavior toward the women with whom he serves on the state’s highest court. Earlier this year, Prosser called Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson a “bitch’ and threatened to ‘destroy’ her,” read a statement from those calling for Prosser to step aside while the investigation is completed. “Now he stands accused of putting his hands around Justice Ann Walsh Bradley’s neck during a dispute in her office. According to Bradley’s account of the assault, she had demanded that Prosser leave her office, and he responded by putting his hands around her neck in anger in a chokehold.”
“As a member of the highest court in Wisconsin, Justice Prosser sits in a position of high trust,” said Madison City Council member Lisa Subeck, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin and one of the organizers of the call. “No individual is above the law, especially an elected official sworn to uphold the very laws he is accused of breaking. As a gesture of respect for the law, Justice Prosser should take a leave from his position while these official investigations unfold.”
Noting statistics about workplace violence against women, Dane County Supervisor Dianne Hesselbein explained that: “Violence against women takes many forms—from domestic violence to sexual assault to workplace violence. All women should have the right to a workplace free of violence and abuse, and no woman should be disempowered by the abusive words or actions of a colleague.”
Her fellow supervisor, Carousel Bayrd, added that, “As elected officials, we are role models trusted by those we represent. Justice Prosser has a responsibility to the citizens of Wisconsin to do the right thing and take a leave from office until an investigation of his actions is complete and to resign immediately if Justice Bradley’s account of the choking incident is confirmed.”
Here is a list of the Wisconsin groups and the elected officials who have called on Prosser to immediately step aside until the conclusion of a full investigation include:
Wisconsin Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
Women’s Medical Fund, Inc.
NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin
National Lawyers Guild, Madison chapter
National Organization for Women (NOW), Madison chapter
State Representative Terese Berceau
Milwaukee Public School Board Member Meagan Holman
Madison School District Board Vice-President Marj Passman
Madison School Board Member Arlene Silveira
Madison City Council President Lauren Cnare
Madison City Council President Pro-Tem Shiva Bidar Sielaff
Madison Alder Bridget Maniaci
Madison Alder Marsha Rummel
Madison Alder Lisa Subeck
Grant County Board Supervisor Carol Beals
Dane County Board Supervisor Carousel Bayrd
Dane County Board Supervisor Sharon Corrigan
Dane County Board Supervisor Analiese Eicher
Dane County Supervisor Dianne Hesselbein
Dane County Board Supervisor Barb Vedder
Dane County Board Supervisor Melissa Sargent