"Rule Number One about the Wisconsin Supreme Court — never talk about the Wisconsin Supreme Court."
Esquire magazine political blogger Charles Pierce wryly paraphrased a line from the movie "Fight Club" in detailing the latest salvo in the ongoing dysfunction among the state's top justices. The court is drawing national media attention again — and not in a good way.
As Steve Elbow reported in the Capital Times Wednesday, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley recused herself from taking part in an ongoing ethics investigation of fellow Justice David Prosser. The investigation, which currently lacks a majority to proceed because of other justices recusing themselves, stems from a June 2011 incident in which Prosser allegedly put his hands around Bradley's neck in a threatening manner.
But Bradley's recusal came as part of a blistering letter to the Judicial Commission saying that Prosser's behavior had become a workplace safety hazard even before the incident. Bradley wrote that, on the advice of law enforcement personnel, she and Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson had taken to locking their office doors while working nights and weekends, and still do.
Pierce also noted that Bradley's bombshell has put Justice Patience Roggensack, a fellow conservative on the court with Prosser, in an uncomfortable position less than a week before her Feb. 19 primary election.
"The incident, and the investigation that followed, have roiled up the politics of the court itself," Pierce wrote Thursday. "(And can I stop right here and say for the 20,000th time what a terrible idea an elected judiciary is?)"
Pierce also noted that the June 2011 incident came the night before the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the Act 10 law stripping most public-sector unions of most of their collective bargaining rights. He also pointed out that Roggensack and two other conservative judges had left the court without a majority to rule on Prosser's alleged ethics violations.
"This towering act of political courage is what left Bradley no alternative than the course she is presently pursuing, as Wisconsin's ascendant conservatives put their hands around the neck of what used to be the Wisconsin Idea," Pierce wrote.
Over at Talking Points Memo, reporter Eric Lach covered Bradley's revelations in an article entitled "Justice Details 'History of Abusive Behavior' at Wisconsin Supreme Court."
TPM Editor Josh Marshall tweeted the story out late Wednesday with the comment: "amazing story. man terrorizes women in workplace. victims and victimizer each members of Wisconsin supreme court."