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Alleged Wisconsin Supreme Court 'Chokehold' Incident Could Be Decided By...Wisconsin Supreme Court


Commission spokesman James Alexander explained that the commission itself does not mete out judicial discipline. "The commission is just an investigatory and prosecutorial agency," Alexander explained. "It can't make findings of fact and law. We have to try our cases like anyone else."

Instead, in cases of alleged misconduct by a judge, the commission's attorneys try a case before a three-judge panel, selected by the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals. "They make findings of fact, and conclusions of law," said Alexander, "and make recommendations to the Supreme Court."

It is then the Supreme Court that makes the final decision.

This process in relation to the polarized Supreme Court came to a head in 2010, when conservative Justice Michael Gableman, who had defeated appointed incumbent liberal Justice Louis Butler in a heated election in 2008, faced a complaint of false advertising from the race, in which he attacked Butler's past career as a defense attorney.

When the commission tried the case before a three-judge panel, the panel sided with Gableman and recommended dismissing the case. When this decision was then brought to the Supreme Court, with Gableman recusing himself, the court split 3-3 -- thus not overturning the decision of the lower court, in a win for Gableman -- along the court's existing conservative and liberal lines. The liberals -- a group that included Bradley -- called for the commission to be able to re-try its case before a jury, and were in turn castigated by the opinion of the conservatives, including Prosser.

TPM asked Alexander whether in a case of alleged attack by one judge against another judge, would both judges be required to recuse themselves. Alexander declined to comment.