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DA wants new prosecutor in Supreme Court probe (UPDATE)

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Madison prosecutor wants a judge to pick someone else to handle allegations state Supreme Court Justice David Prosser attacked a liberal colleague.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said Monday he wants to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest. The high court was deliberating a lawsuit the Democratic prosecutor filed against Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s contentious collective bargaining bill when Justice Ann Walsh Bradley said Prosser choked her in her state Capitol office in June. Prosser has denied the allegations.

Ozanne said he was preparing the paperwork Monday to ask Dane County Chief Judge William Faust to assign a special prosecutor to the case.

“I take this action,” Ozanne said in a statement, “not because I feel this office wouldn’t be fair, but so that any decision can be free from accusations to ensure the public’s trust in the system.”

Dane County Sheriff’s detectives have been investigating Walsh Bradley’s claims for nearly a month.

They turned over their findings to Ozanne on Thursday, sheriff’s spokeswoman Elise Schaffer said, but did not include a charging recommendation.

Both she and Ozanne declined to comment on the investigation.

Ozanne filed a lawsuit in March alleging Republican lawmakers violated the state’s open meetings law when they hastily called a committee meeting to revise the collective bargaining proposal during run-up to passage. A Madison judge ruled the open meetings law was violated and declared the collective bargaining plan void, but the Supreme Court ultimately reversed her.

The law requires almost all public workers to contribute more to their pensions and health care. It also strips them of nearly all their union rights. Tens of thousands of people spent weeks at the Capitol protesting the measure to no avail.

Walsh Bradley is generally seen as a member of the court’s three-justice liberal bloc. Prosser is considered one of the four-justice conservative majority. The two factions have been feuding for years, both in public and behind the scenes.

Prosser’s spokesman, Brian Nemoir, said Prosser hopes the case is resolved as quickly as possible.

“It’s gone on long enough,” he said.

Walsh Bradley hasn’t commented on the case since she first made the allegations to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Messages left at the state Supreme Court offices on Monday requesting an interview with her weren’t immediately returned.

Read more from the choking case

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