Sunday, June 26, 2011

Prosser Is Begging for Impeachment

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, according to court sources, attacked fellow Justice Ann Bradley over an argument about the Walker's union-busting bill. He reportedly placed her in a chokehold, but did not exert obvious force, when she asked him to leave her chambers after an informal discussion became heated. Four other justices were in the room. Prosser has denied the allegation, releasing this statement to the Journal Sentinel newspaper:
"Once there's a proper review of the matter and the facts surrounding it are made clear, the anonymous claim made to the media will be proven false. Until then I will refrain from further public comment."
A proper review should certainly be made into workplace violence whenever it is alleged to have occurred, whether it's encouragement of hazing in an athletics program, an altercation between cubicle neighbors, or a mock-choking in the chambers of the Supreme Court. In an office or university environment, there is a process in place, managed by human resources or an established group to deal with these inevitable, though rare, instances of workplace violence. In the Supreme Court there is not.

Prosser asks for a "proper review," but the truth about the judiciary (and the Wisconsin constitution) is that there is no HR department for the high court. The only body that could provide a "proper review" for the allegations is the legislature, by instantiating an impeachment proceeding. As I understand it, the Wisconsin impeachment proceedings mirror the federal template. The state assembly draws up articles of impeachment, acting as a grand jury in deciding whether there is enough evidence to begin a trial phase. If there is, the articles of impeachment are approved by a majority vote, and the process moves to the state senate for trial, where Prosser would either be removed for his offense or acquitted. This is the only possible "proper review" that Prosser could be asking for, if he actually wanted such a review.

The alleged behavior is certainly criminal, so William Jacobsen at Legal Insurrection asks, why not file criminal charges against the attacker? First of all, if your coworker put you in a chokehold, do you think your first reaction would be to file charges? The criminal prosecution route is onerous for the victim. Any workplace or institution has internal discipline committees to deal with these problems precisely because treating these incidents as a criminal justice matter (and explaining minute details of the institution's daily functioning to external investigators) is taxing and creates enormous disruption for the institution. It's obvious that Jacobsen is a law professor; the question he asks is provocative, but the actual substance and assumptions of his "Weiner test" is laughable.

David Prosser wants to be impeached for this incident. He's confident that he will be acquitted by the majority Republican Senate, so the majority Republican House should go ahead and give him a chance to clear his name. "A proper review" requires impeachment, and Prosser knows it.

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