MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Police set up a security plan for the Wisconsin Supreme Court's two liberal-leaning justices in the weeks before conservative Justice David Prosser wrapped his hands around one of their necks during an argument, according to court documents released Wednesday.
Justice Ann Walsh Bradley wrote that she and Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson believed Prosser was growing more agitated leading up to the incident and feared for their safety. She lamented the lack of consequences for Prosser, saying she and Abrahamson still lock themselves in their offices because they're afraid of him.
She also accused Prosser's conservative allies, Justice Pat Roggensack and Justice Michael Gableman of enabling Prosser, singling out Roggensack for minimizing the court's conflicts as Roggensack pushes for re-election.
"Denying that those problems exist merely enables the behavior and prevents meaningful solutions," Bradley wrote.
The news comes less than a week before Tuesday's primary election in which Roggensack faces two challengers. She is seeking a second 10-year term on the state's highest court and her challengers have tried to make conflicts among the justices an issue in the race.
Roggensack said Bradley's accusations that she enabled Prosser were unfair. And her campaign adviser Brandon Scholz suggested the documents' release was timed to hurt Roggensack as she heads into a primary election next week.
"Here we are a year and a half later, a few days before the election, and this comes out," Scholz said. "From the campaign side of things it certainly raises my eyebrows."
Prosser didn't immediately return messages left with the Supreme Court's public information officer.
Prosser and the rest of the court's conservative four-justice majority have been feuding openly with the liberal-leaning Bradley and Abrahamson for years. The tension boiled over in June 2011 when Prosser allegedly wrapped his hands around Bradley's neck during an argument over a legal challenge to Gov. Scott Walker's contentious law stripping most public workers of nearly all their union rights.
Prosser was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing, but the state Judicial Commission filed a complaint accusing him of violating judicial ethics. It was up to the other six justices to decide his punishment.
But Prosser did an end-run around the complaint, asking all the justices to recuse themselves. All three of his conservative allies agreed to step out of the case, essentially scuttling the complaint for lack of a quorum.
Bradley issued a decision Wednesday recusing herself as well, a move that's all but moot now. But she used the decision to lament the lack of action against Prosser and to take another swipe at the conservatives.
She wrote that she and Abrahamson felt Prosser was prone to temper tantrums. In February 2010, he called Abrahamson a derogatory word and threatened to destroy her, prompting Bradley to ask the other justices to help tone down his behavior. No one did anything, she said.
In March 2011, two months before the incident in her office, she and others felt Prosser was growing more agitated. Republicans had just passed Walker's law after weathering massive around-the-clock protests at the state Capitol. A now-retired deputy state courts director Bradley did not name warned her Prosser might "endanger my physical safety as well as that of the Chief Justice," she wrote.
Police devised a plan to protect them, Bradley wrote. Officers advised them to lock themselves inside their offices when working alone at night and on weekends. They also gave both of them cellphone and home numbers for then-Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs, told Abrahamson to tell them when she was coming to the office after hours and offered to escort her when she left and agreed to step up patrols, according to Bradley.
But Bradley said the precautions didn't prevent the June incident. Six of the justices were in Bradley's office arguing about when the court would release a decision upholding Walker's law as legal when Prosser wrapped his hands around Bradley's neck, she wrote. Prosser has maintained Bradley charged him and he put up his hands to defend himself.
Bradley ripped Roggensack and Justice Michael Gableman for continuing to minimize Prosser's conduct and insisting Prosser's hands were never actually around her neck, even though Prosser acknowledged to detectives his hands were on her neck and he could feel the warmth of her skin.
She especially took Roggensack to task for suggesting other justices goad Prosser and for minimizing the court's interpersonal problems on the campaign trail.
Roggensack faces a three-way primary against Marquette University law professor Ed Fallone and lemon law attorney Vince Megna on Tuesday. The two top vote-getters will advance to April's general election.
Roggensack said she has insisted both Bradley and Prosser were out of line in June and has called for the court to address the problems between them. Roggensack said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press she believes the court must address the problems between Prosser and Bradley but questioned how afraid Bradley really is of him.
"We were in conference for oral arguments all day Monday and all day Tuesday. Not a harsh word spoken by anyone. No one was edgy or testy," Roggensack said. "She sits right next to him all day long. ... No one else barricades themselves (in their offices)."
Fallone issued a statement maintaining Roggensack has been dismissive of Bradley's allegations and she should recant her remarks. Megna, meanwhile, said in an email that Bradley's writings confirm the court is an embarrassment.
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