Anger And Sexism Play In Wisconsin's Supreme Court

Yesterday Nicole Belle brought you the story of Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser's alleged violent acts toward a fellow justice, who also happens to be female and who also doesn't agree with him on much. Here's an update.

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley has now confirmed that Prosser did indeed put his hands around her neck, describing it as a "chokehold". Via JSOnline:

"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.

Sources told the Journal Sentinel two very different stories Saturday about what occurred. Some confirmed Bradley's version. According to others, Bradley charged Prosser, who raised his hands to defend himself and made contact with her neck.

She "charged Prosser"? Really? Let's have a look at the two of them side by side. Here's a photo. Prosser is 2nd from the left; Bradley is 3rd from the left.

wi-supreme-court.jpg

In the very best case, they appear to be of similar height. I have tried to imagine a scenario where his hands simply "made contact with her neck" and can't quite get there. If he was defending himself from a charge, wouldn't he just block her, or step out of the way?

Here's a bit more of the story, as related by JSOnline:

A source who spoke to several justices present during the incident told the Journal Sentinel that the confrontation occurred after 5:30 p.m. June 13, the day before the high court's release of a decision upholding a bill to curtail the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

Six of the court's seven justices - Justice N. Patrick Crooks was not present - had gathered in Bradley's chambers. Some were informally discussing the decision.

The conversation grew heated, and Bradley asked Prosser to leave. Bradley was bothered by disparaging remarks Prosser had made about Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, a source said.

Bradley felt Prosser "was attacking the chief justice," the source said.

Before leaving, Prosser "put his hands around her neck in what (Bradley) described as a chokehold," the source said.

"He did not exert any pressure, but his hands were around her neck," the source said.

The source said the act "was in no way playful."

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.

Bradley has a different version of the story, where she describes it as a chokehold.

Whatever actually happened, no one disagrees with some basic facts. One, they were in her office and there were witnesses. Two, there was a heated, angry discussion about Justice Abrahamson, who Justice Prosser had already tangled with earlier this year.

Abrahamson singled out Prosser for criticism, calling his concurrence “long on rhetoric and long on story-telling that appears to have a partisan slant. Like the order, the concurrence reaches unsupported conclusions.” She said the ruling “seems to open the court unnecessarily to the charge that the majority has reached a pre-determined conclusion not based on the facts and the law… .”

In March, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that, in a disagreement over a case last year, Justice Prosser had called Justice Abrahamson a “total bitch” and threatened to “destroy” her. Prosser, the paper reported, confirmed making the remarks, saying he “probably overreacted” while accusing Justices Abrahamson and Bradley of being “masters at deliberately goading people into perhaps incautious statements.”

So there's bad blood between them. Advocacy is like that, particularly with a dogmatic type like Prosser. Compare Prosser's comment about Abrahamson and Bradley to the version of the story where her neck got in the way of his hands.

Anyone who has had any experience with a physically abusive person knows these kinds of stories well. They're the stories that go like this: "I wouldn't have had to beat you to a pulp if you had just done [fill in the blank]." Or, "I wouldn't have had to rape you if you'd just dressed more modestly." These are the excuses of one who blames everyone for their own destructive acts. I might have been more willing to give Prosser the benefit of the doubt if he hadn't, in two separate statements dealing with two separate issues, spoken the language of a serial abuser and bully.

There's a record with this guy. A long one, evidently. Not only isn't this the first time he's "overreacted", but it happens to be with these two justices -- Abrahamson and Bradley. In February, Bradley sent an email to the entire court, concerning his 'bursts of anger' and abusive attitude toward women on the court. And let's look more carefully at what he said after confirming that he did have a temper fit and call Justice Abrahamson a bitch.

"In the context of this, I said, 'You are a total bitch,' " Prosser said. "I probably overreacted, but I think it was entirely . . . warranted. They (Abrahamson and Bradley) are masters at deliberately goading people into perhaps incautious statements. This is bullying and abuse of very, very long standing."

There it is again. The guy who demeans women and possibly gets physical with them claiming he's the bullied one. This is almost a textbook case of sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace, but I'm betting it's not the women harassing or bullying. Why would they be the ones to call the authorities or take steps to air the grievances and clear them if they were the bullies? No, when you have the man claiming he's a victim every single time he's accused of victimizing others, there's much more there than meets the eye.

Think Progress has a report on the four ways this man can be removed from the court. In my view, the right thing for him to do is to step down immediately, before he renders the court dysfunctional and paralyzed. Of course, if he does, that will give Scott Walker the right to appoint his successor which from an ideological standpoint could be as bad or worse than Prosser, but hopefully he'd manage to find one who understands that men do not put their hands on women without an invitation, and that everyone should treat each other with respect, particularly those serving as arbiters of the law.

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