Wis. Justice Prosser On Court’s Civility Problems: ‘I Am Castigated All The Time’

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Wisconsin state Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, who is seeking re-election in this swing state’s now highly-polarized environment, is continuing to explain the poor relationships on the court, which resulted in the public recently learning that he called Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson “a total bitch” last year. As Prosser tells it, the liberal members have ganged up on him and created a “foul atmosphere” — which, he said, will be solved once he is re-elected.

Prosser’s campaign has hit a serious bump in the road, due to the recent stories about internal squabbles on the court. “I probably overreacted,” Prosser recently told reporters. “But I think it was entirely warranted…They (Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley) are masters at deliberately goading people into perhaps incautious statements. This is bullying and abuse of very, very long standing.”

On Tuesday, as the Associated Press reports, Prosser and his opponent, Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg, attended a lunch forum hosted by the Dane County Bar Association. They were then each asked by the moderator 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.

As we’ve noted, a state Supreme Court election would not normally be major news. But in the wake of Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s new anti-public employee union law, and the political protests that gripped the state and attracted national attention, the court race has quickly turned into a proxy political battle. Conservatives are supporting Prosser, a former Republican state Assembly Speaker, and liberals backing Kloppenburg.

The election will be held April 5.

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