Time to perform the Heimlich maneuver on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. It is choking on the toxicity spawned by Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. She must step down for the good of the court.
Consider, for starters, how unlikely is it that a justice would try to throttle another justice -- a female justice at that -- in the presence of four other colleagues.
Reporting for National Review On-line, Christian Schneider reconstructs the episode, which occurred the day before the June 14 release of its important decision affirming, by a 4-3 vote, the collective bargaining changes.
It has the four-justice majority searching the Capitol for the chief justice to ascertain whether she would fulfill a promise to release the decision timely. They find her in Justice Ann Walsh Bradley's office. Prosser is standing in the doorway. Words are exchanged.
Schneider cites a witness -- unnamed -- alleging that Bradley came around from behind her desk and "charged toward Prosser, shaking her clenched fist in his face."
"They were literally face to face," Schneider writes. Prosser pushed her away, aiming high rather than against her chest which, he writes, would have left him liable to still other charges.
At that moment, another justice approached Bradley from behind and pulled her away from Prosser, saying, "Stop it, Ann, this isn't like you." Bradley then shouted, "I was choked!" Another justice present replied, "You were not choked." [NRO: More details emerge in Wisconsin's 'chokegate']
Ten days after the fact, Bill Lueders comes out with his sensational story, which casts Prosser as the aggressor and Bradley as the victim, with none of the nuance. Subsequently, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel adds the context that Prosser may have been attacked.
Choosing sides and rooting for them
Even so, Ms. Emily posts today that those who question the Lueders report are "blaming the victim." But who is the victim?
My original questions remain:
If there was a crime, why no police complaint?
Why instead leak the story to the news media, where courtroom proof is not required, and why do so 10 days later?
Who leaked the story?
Why was it leaked to Bill Lueders, a noted Prosser enemy?
"Lueders is many things," writes Kevin Binversie for WisconsinReporter.com. "... But no one has ever said he's a journalist first. Lueders like the Madison Capitol Times' John Nichols and The Isthmus David Blaska is an activist journalist."
My term is "advocacy journalist." Blaska writes from a conservative perspective, Lueders from the liberal. Binversie points out, as I have before, that the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism is a George Soros-funded operation. (They've got their millionaires and we've got ours.) The irony is that Bill will deny to your face that he is a liberal! Makes one wonder why, then, Wisconsin Public Radio so often teams the two of us on its Week in Review program as liberal-conservative (but friendly) sparring partners.
Sheriff Mahoney returns to the Palace Guard
Meanwhile, The Capital Times is practically gushing that Dane County Sheriff David Mahoney is "the right lawman" to investigate. The CT makes clear the partisan outcome it expects from Mahoney: to overturn "Gov. Scott Walker's attempts to undermine worker rights, local democracy and the rule of law."
I have more respect for Dave Mahoney than that but I do have a hard time swallowing his unfortunate "palace guard" remark, suggesting that it was not his job to protect and serve when he pulled his deputies out of the Capitol as it was besieged by tens of thousands of angry protestors. So now the Capitol IS his beat? More bad on DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch.
If Chief Tubbs is admitting that his Capitol Police are no more than building security guards with guns, then why not hand off the case to Madison Police Chief Noble Wray?
Wray's politics are unknown while Mahoney, an elected Democrat, appeared in a Shirley Abrahamson's re-election campaign ad. (Ironically, as Schneider points out, so did "not-yet-famous circuit-court judge Maryann Sumi, whose ruling the Supreme Court had to vacate in order to allow Scott Walker's collective-bargaining bill to stand.") Should Abrahamson have recused herself?
Worse, Mahoney endorsed Prosser's opponent in this spring's election, the Wisconsin State Journal reminds!
My take on this World Wrestling Federation smackdown is that there was no crime and that no charges will be brought. The entire purpose is to undermine the conservative majority on the court.
Don't dig the hole deeper
The Wisconsin State Journal uses the fracas to renew its crusade for the merit selection of judges. A truly awful idea. In states that use this method, the personal injury bar has taken control of the process and validates only liberal justices. Much better to use the federal system; let the state's chief executive, elected by the people, appoint the justices for 10-year terms subject to senate approval.
None of which would have barred Justices Prosser or Bradley from the court.
I acknowledge that the Left and the Right are sides based on their partisan leanings. I will say that the episode, no matter the facts, does not reflect well on anyone. But the fact is -- and it is a fact -- the state's high court has been contentious for many years. That is the one constant during the 15 years that Shirley Abrahamson has been chief justice.
Abrahamson is the one constant
Bradley is Abrahamson's closest ally on the court. As I recounted a few months back, back in February 2010, Justice Patience Roggensack e-mailed Bradley to say, "You are a very active participant in the dysfunctional way we carry-on. (As am I.) You often goad other justices by pushing and pushing in conference in a way that is simply rude and completely nonproductive. That is what happened when David lost his cool. He is not a man who attacks others without provocation."
The Squire just last week noted Abrahamson's astonishing derisiveness in her injudicious dissent in the Sumi case.
This most partisan of justices has along been stage-managing an internecine war against Prosser, Annette Ziegler, and Michael Gableman for several years now, supporting measures to recuse, reprimand, and undermine various justices of the conservative majority. She did the same to Justices Roland Day and Donald Steinmetz before them.
The late Bill Bablitch, a former Democrat(ic) state senator, joined three other justices in 1999 to endorse Shirley's opponent, almost unheard of before or since. Media Trackers recounts "Chief Justice Abrahamson's Stormy History on the Court."
Way back in the mid-1980s [before becoming chief justice], the Milwaukee Journal quoted an unnamed justice as saying Abrahamson gave colleagues the finger in conference and ridiculed their opinions in her dissents. Long before Abrahamson was trading barbs with Prosser and Roggensack, she was locked in a public battle with Justice Roland B. Day. ...One lawyer who has worked in the court calls her style "toxic" and compared dealing with her to chewing tinfoil. In short, Abrahamson may be brilliant, but her critics say she doesn't countenance other perspectives or much care about consensus or conciliation."