Wisconsin voters are experiencing a different judicial campaign in the bid of Justice David Prosser to remain on the state Supreme Court. The issue? Prosser calling Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson a “total bitch.” Prosser has gone public to say that he did in fact call Abrahamson the name, but he stressed that he meant it. He also promised to “destroy” her. The controversy has now pulled other justices into the fray on both sides.
Prosser insists that Abrahamson was working against him politically as well as other court conservatives. He said that he “probably overreacted, but I think it was entirely warranted. . . . They (Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley) are masters at deliberately goading people into perhaps incautious statements. This is bullying and abuse of very, very long standing.”
Bradley recounted the confrontation in an email: “In a fit of temper, you were screaming at the chief; calling her a ‘bitch,’ threatening her with ‘. . . I will destroy you’; and describing the means of destruction as a war against her ‘and it won’t be a ground war.'”
Bradley’s email led another justice to criticize her for airing the issue to a wider audience. Justice Patience Roggensack wrote to Bradley, stating
“You were trying to make David look bad in the eyes of others, as a person who uses language that we all find offensive – and I include David in that ‘we,’ . . .Do you think that copying others on your e-mail increased the collegiality of the court or decreased it?
You are a very active participant in the dysfunctional way we carry-on. (As am I.) You often goad other justices by pushing and pushing in conference in a way that is simply rude and completely nonproductive. That is what happened when David lost his cool. He is not a man who attacks others without provocation. Until you realize that you are an active part of the provocation, not much will change. Perhaps a third party will help you realize that you are not part of the solution; you are part of the problem.”
As the article below details, there continued to be angry exchanges between the court members.
Ironically, I recently met Abrahamson when I was a panel member at Marquette Law School in Milwaukee. She stayed for the awarding of public interest commendations to law schools and local lawyers and was extremely gracious.