Supreme Court Justice David Prosser is complaining about how he was persecuted at the hands of a partisan, political Judicial Commission. But he won’t be able to complain much longer.
That’s because if the commission is in fact partisan and political, it has just swung his way.
Last week Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson released a letter to John Dawson telling him that the court would not be not re-appointing him to the commission. The letter, signed by Abrahamson and the other two so-called "liberals" on the court, expressed regret at the decision by the conservative majority.
Dawson, the chairman of the commission, has served on the panel since 2006. With his removal, the panel will be scrubbed of all commissioners who filed ethics complaints against Prosser and two other sitting conservative justices over the past four years.
The Supreme Court picks four four commissioners: two judges that the court selects and two lawyers nominated by a selection committee. Three of those members were recently installed. A replacement for Dawson, who finishes his term in August, has not yet been named.
Prosser is currently facing a complaint alleging ethical breaches as a result of an altercation with fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, and an earlier episode during which he called Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson a “total bitch.”
Prosser has argued that the complaint is frivolous, partisan and that the commission has no business meddling into confidential conferences between justices, apparently even if those conferences involved, as is alleged in his case, Prosser's hands on the throat of another justice.
Gov. Scott Walker, who gets to appoint five people from outside the legal profession to the nine-member commission, saw his picks take their places this year.
Liberals were quick to cry foul. Earlier this year The Progressive pointed out that three of Walker’s appointees -- Mark Barrette of Beaver Dam, Saied Assef of Green Bay and Eileen Burnett of De Pere -- are Republican donors, with Burnett forking out more than $4,000 to Walker himself.
But before that, the commission had five members appointed by former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. And guess what? Among them were some serious Democratic donors and Doyle backers.
Former commission members James Haney, Michael Miller and Ginger Alden were donors to either Doyle or other Democrats. Haney and former member Cynthia Herber signed Walker recall petitions.
And the guy the commission picked to lead the investigation into Prosser’s conduct, Milwaukee attorney Franklyn Gimbel, has not only given a lot of money to Doyle and other Democrats over the years, he also signed a petition to recall Walker.
James Alexander, the executive director of the commission, bristles at the suggestion that the body is biased.
“The commission has always tried very, very hard to not have any agenda, whether it’s political or personal or whatever it is,” he says. “It tries to do its work impartially and independent of any of that.”
But there’s no question that the choice of commission members reflects the political ideology of those who appoint them.