A New Low In Wisconsin

The apparent death struggle between liberals and conservatives in Wisconsin reached a nadir yesterday with Supreme Court Justice Ann Bradley claiming that fellow Justice David Prosser choked her during an argument in her chambers:

Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley late Saturday accused fellow Justice David Prosser of putting her in a chokehold during a dispute in her office earlier this month.
“The facts are that I was demanding that he get out of my office and he put his hands around my neck in anger in a chokehold,” Bradley told the Journal Sentinel.

It turns out, however, that those “facts” are hotly disputed:

But another source told the Journal Sentinel that Bradley attacked Prosser.
“She charged him with fists raised,” the source said.
Prosser “put his hands in a defensive posture,” the source said. “He blocked her.”
In doing so, the source said, he made contact with Bradley’s neck.

A third source apparently supports the claim that Bradley began the encounter by attacking Prosser. The incident occurred when six of the seven Wisconsin Supreme Court justices were gathered in Bradley’s chambers, discussing the appeal of the circuit court decision that purported to invalidate legislation redefining certain public employees’ collective bargaining rights.
The incident reportedly occurred on June 13, the day before the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s 4-3 decision was published. That timing is interesting, given the topic that precipitated the incident:

Another source said the justices were arguing over the timing of the release of the opinion, which legislative leaders had insisted they needed by June 14 because of their work on the state budget. As the justices discussed the case, Abrahamson said she didn’t know whether the decision would come out this month, the source said.
At that point, Prosser said he’d lost all confidence in her leadership. Bradley then came across the room “with fists up,” the source said. Prosser put up his hands to push her back.

Given that the decision was released the following day, the justices obviously had voted and the majority and dissenting opinions were written by the time the justices had this conversation on June 13. Yet Chief Justice Abrahamson said “she didn’t know whether the decision would come out this month.” That sounds like a threat to deliberately stall release of the decision in order to impact the legislative process. If the Journal Sentinel’s report is correct, it is no wonder that Justice Prosser said he had lost confidence in Abrahamson’s leadership.
A one-sided report of this altercation was first published by a left-wing advocacy group. Ann Althouse has written at length about the journalistic side of the story. Byron York bemoans the sorry state of politics in Wisconsin–appropriately so. What is hard to understand is how a modest change in public employee collective bargaining rights, which leaves Wisconsin’s public sector workers with more such rights than most public employees have, could trigger such a hysterical reaction from the Left.

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