The Wisconsin legal world has been turned upside down after state Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley accused fellow Justice David Prosser of putting her in a chokehold during a dispute in her office earlier this month. What caused this bizarre battle? Here, a brief guide:
How did this scandal start?
Six of the court's seven justices had gathered in Bradley's chambers to discuss their decision to uphold a bill curtailing the collective bargaining rights of public employees. The ruling was to be released the next day. The discussion grew heated, and Bradley says Prosser made insulting remarks about Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, so she asked him to leave. Then, according to Bradley, Prosser put his hands around her neck in a "chokehold."
Is that how Prosser sees it?
No way. He says Bradley charged at him, and he simply put up his hands defensively, inadvertently touching her neck. Some of the people present confirmed Bradley's version of events, while others backed Prosser. "She charged him with fists raised," one witness said, as quoted by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "He did not exert any pressure, but his hands were around her neck."
Why did the debate spin out of control?
The union issue has been deeply divisive in Wisconsin. Prosser, a conservative who backed lawmakers' right to curb collective bargaining powers, only recently won re-election by a razor-thin margin, in an election that was seen as a referendum on the union-busting law. And the court has been plagued by infighting in recent years. Prosser admitted in March that he called Abrahamson a "bitch" in another private meeting. He also threatened to "destroy" her.
Might Prosser face punishment?
Of course, says Taylor Marsh at her blog, this shocking and "incredible" story could mean that Prosser is "in serious trouble." Indeed, if an investigation proves the allegations true, says Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress, Prosser should resign. If he won't quit, he should be removed from office by the Legislature or a recall election. And what if this childish spat proves to be nothing but a "hit job" Bradley and the rest of the court's liberal faction cooked up to make Prosser look bad? asks Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. Let's hope the Left "will demand Bradley's resignation as quickly as they demanded Prosser's."