In a letter (PDF)filed Friday with the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Milwaukee attorney Frank Gimbel argued in favor of a public forum for handling the pending ethics case against state Justice David Prosser.
Gimbel is representing the Wisconsin Judicial Commission in a complaint it filed March 16 against Prosser regarding an incident last summer in which Prosser placed his hands on Justice Ann Walsh Bradley’s neck in the company of their colleagues.
A three-judge panel is considering whether any action should result from the incident.
State law calls for a panel of appeals court judges to make a recommendation on discipline to the Supreme Court.
However, if four or more justices recuse themselves from the case, the court would not be able to rule on any disciplinary recommendation made by the appellate panel. The state Supreme Court is the only entity that can sanction a judge.
Justice Patience Roggensack recused herself May 1.
On Tuesday, Prosser’s attorney, Kevin Reak, of Gunta & Reak SC, Wauwatosa, asked Justice Michael Gableman to recuse himself, as well. Prosser has asked three other justices – Bradley, Shirley Abrahamson and Patrick Crooks – to step aside, though none have agreed to yet.
In his Tuesday letter, Reak, on behalf of Prosser, stated “I believe it would be pointless for the Supreme Court to initiate a proceeding that must come back to a court when it is known now that every member of the court is disqualified by law.”
Gimbel objected to that statement in his Friday letter, stating, “Attorney Reak’s personal view that the complaint filed … should not be heard in a public forum is inconsistent with the legislative framework that provides for the State Judicial Commission to undertake its role as an institution that provides oversight of judicial behavior.”
In an interview Friday, Gimbel reiterated that point, saying, “Let the thing play itself out and have a hearing.”
The Judicial Commission, Gimbel’s letter states, “strongly opposes any approach to resolution of the issues … that does not involve having a three-judge panel of appellate court judges address the merits of the allegations … .”