Legal Ethics

Ethics Sanction Requested for Wisconsin Justice over B-Word, Neck-Touching Incidents


A special prosecutor for the Wisconsin Judicial Commission is recommending discipline for a justice for his behavior in two separate conflicts with his colleagues, including one in which he is accused of putting his hands around a justice’s neck.

Justice David Prosser says charges in the ethics complaint (PDF) filed against him on Friday are “partisan, unreasonable and largely untrue,” the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism reports. Bloomberg News, the Associated Press and Courthouse News Service also have stories.

In one incident, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley accuses Prosser of putting his hands around her neck, as if he were going to choke her, during a heated discussion in her office in June 2011. Prosser maintains he merely put his hands up when Bradley came at him at him with her fist raised. “Did I try to touch her neck, no, absolutely not,” he said in a police interview last year. “It was a total reflex.” No criminal charges were filed against either justice.

In another incident, Prosser is accused of telling Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, “You are a total bitch,” during a different heated debate. He admitted using the word in a newspaper interview last year, but said it was justified.

The complaint says Prosser violated ethics requirements for judges to be “patient, dignified and courteous,” to cooperate with others in the judicial system, and to maintain high standards of conduct. Special prosecutor Franklyn Gimbel is requesting that a three-judge panel hear the case, but the state supreme court will decide whether to issue sanctions, the stories say.

Prior coverage:

ABA Journal: “The Badgering State: Wis. Battles over Worker’s Rights and Skirmishes in the Supreme Court”

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