MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Three of the five people whom Gov. Scott Walker appointed to a commission to investigate Supreme Court Justice David Prosser were recommended by a former Assembly speaker who once worked for Prosser.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Sunday that ex-Speaker John Gard told a Walker aide in an email that two of the people he recommended for the Judicial Commission were "fiercely conservative" and "will never wimp out." The newspaper obtained the Feb. 16 email under the state's open records law.
Gard also wrote that he had told one of the appointees "what we were looking for and (he) said he would do it if needed."
The Judicial Commission has accused Prosser of violating judicial ethics when he allegedly wrapped his hands around the neck of Justice Ann Walsh Bradley last year.
Gard told the newspaper that he didn't discuss Prosser's case with those he recommended, and did not talk to Prosser about the appointments. Walker's spokesman, Cullen Werwie, said no one from the governor's office talked about the Prosser case with the appointees.
Gard was an aide to Prosser in the 1980s, when Prosser was Republican leader in the state Assembly. In 1987, Gard was elected to the Assembly and served with Prosser for nearly a decade, including when Prosser was speaker.
Walker's appointees to the Judicial Commission won unanimous confirmation from the state Senate in March. Sen. Jon Erpenbach, a Democrat from Middleton, said the new information in the email is troubling.
"The question that immediately popped in my mind is what did John Gard tell them they have to do?" Erpenbach said. "To me, it's aimed directly at trying to get rid of the whole Prosser issue."
Before Walker's appointees were seated, the Judicial Commission voted to file an ethics complaint against Prosser. The case has since stalled as Prosser's fellow justices consider whether they can impartially review an incident that some witnessed.
Werwie said the governor and his aides have asked hundreds of people to make recommendations on a variety of appointments. Gard served as Assembly speaker from 2003 to 2007 and now leads a group known as Wisconsin Businesses Inc. Werwie said Walker was more focused on finding members of the Judicial Commission who would be fair than those he considered conservative.
Erpenbach and a fellow Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Fred Risser, said they would have liked to have known about Gard's email before sending the appointments to the full Senate for confirmation.
"It wouldn't have necessarily changed things, but it would have opened up a line of questioning," Risser said.
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