By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Patience Roggensack on Friday defended the way the state’s highest court has functioned recently, saying justices are working together despite reports of tension and a highly publicized altercation.
“We’ve worked very well together so don’t give up on us,” Roggensack said as she submitted signatures to get on the ballot for re-election. “We are doing just fine.”
Roggensack is running for a second 10-year term on the court and was the first of three announced candidates to turn in signatures to get on the April 2 ballot. Marquette University law school professor Ed Fallone and Milwaukee lemon law attorney Vince Megna are also running, and both said they would meet the Wednesday deadline to submit the required 2,000 signatures.
Roggensack dropped off what she said were 4,000 signatures to the Government Accountability Board on Friday. If more than two candidates qualify for the ballot, there will be a Feb. 19 primary.
The inner workings of the court have been scrutinized since Justice David Prosser placed his hands around the neck of fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley last year. The altercation came as the justices were discussing the court’s opinion on a case challenging passage of a bill effectively ending collective bargaining for most public workers.
Prosser said he was making a defensive move, but charges have been brought against him alleging that he violated the judicial ethics code. Roggensack and two other justices have recused themselves from considering the case. Roggensack often sides with Prosser and two other conservative justices on cases, making up a conservative majority on the seven-member court.
In another sign of discord, Prosser called Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson a derogatory name in 2010 in front of other justices.
Roggensack defended the court Friday, saying Prosser’s incident with Bradley was inappropriate but out of character.
“I’ve seen nothing like that before and I’ve seen nothing like it since,” she said.
Roggensack noted that tensions were high at the time of the altercation, given the round-the-clock protests at the Capitol that brought tens of thousands of people to the building both inside and out.
“I really just think that their nerves were totally frayed,” she said of Prosser and Bradley.
Fallone and Megna have portrayed the court as dysfunctional and said it’s one reason Roggensack should be replaced.
Megna said that in the public’s view, “this court is insane.”
“People comment to me constantly that this court is sick,” Megna said. “This is just public perspective.”
He called on all members of the court to make a public statement backing up Roggensack’s claim that the justices are getting along and the court is operating well.
“I’d like them to tell us how they’re functioning,” Megna said. “My guess is they’re not functioning properly. They’re not functioning professionally. They’re not functioning as a team.”
Fallone also disagreed with Roggensack’s contention that the court is operating smoothly.
“Right now the court’s difficulty is that it’s split into two different camps that don’t get along with one another,” Fallone said. “My election changes that dynamic because I don’t belong to either camp. No one has any personal grudge against me.”
Both Megna and Fallone said they would have more than 2,000 signatures to submit on Wednesday.