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Justice’s recusal requests could end ethics case

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Ethics violation accusations against Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser stemming from an argument with a fellow justice may not move forward if his colleagues agree to recuse themselves from the case.

The state Judicial Commission has accused Prosser of violating the judicial ethics code when he placed his hands on rival Justice Ann Walsh Bradley’s neck during an argument last year in front of four other justices. State law calls for a panel of appeals court judges to make a recommendation on discipline to the Supreme Court.

Prosser has asked three justices – Pat Roggensack, Bradley and Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson – to step out of the case because they were witnesses. He also has accused Bradley and Abrahamson of being biased against him.

If the three agree to recuse themselves, the case would likely end before the panel of appeals court judges convenes.

The Journal Sentinel says Prosser plans to ask other justices to step aside as well. So, even if an appeals panel is convened and four or more justices recuse themselves, the high court will not be able to make a decision on Prosser’s conduct or possible discipline because of a lack of quorum.

Prosser, a former Republican state Assembly speaker, is part of a four-justice conservative majority. The group has been openly feuding with the liberal-leaning Bradley and Abrahamson for years. Tensions between the group blew up last June when the court was asked to decide whether Republicans violated the state’s open meetings law during the run-up to passing Gov. Scott Walker’s contentious collective bargaining law, which stripped public workers of their union rights.

The conservative bloc upheld the law and was under intense pressure to release the decision quickly to save Republican legislators from having to pass the law again in the state budget. The group marched into Bradley’s office, found Abrahamson there and began to press her to release the opinion. When Bradley told Prosser to get out, things got physical. She says he placed his hands around her neck in a chokehold but never applied pressure. Prosser insists Bradley charged him and he raised his hands in self-defense.

A special prosecutor decided last year not to file criminal charges against either of them.

Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com

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