The judicial commission is separately investigating the case for violations of the state's code of ethics for judges. That code says that a judge "shall avoid impropriety" and "shall respect and comply with the law and shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary."Clearly, leaking the story — and leaking it in a deceptive form — was a decision to diminish public confidence in the court. (You might want to question whether the code should say that: What if the court doesn't deserve public confidence in its integrity and impartiality? Are the judges compelled to keep quiet about it?)
If the judicial commission found any wrongdoing, the case would go first to a three-judge panel and then to the Supreme Court to consider.... If the Supreme Court finds misconduct in a judicial ethics case, it can reprimand, censure, suspend or remove a judge.So, wouldn't Prosser and Bradley recuse themselves? That would leave a 3-2 conservative majority on the court. If the commission found wrongdoing by both Bradley and Prosser, then that majority could attempt to display neutrality by voting to remove both justices. I'm partly serious, but mainly being amusing. You do see what is amusing about portraying that as neutral-looking. Governor Scott Walker would have the power to make 2 appointments. From a political perspective, losing Prosser would put conservatives in a better position. They'd have a new justice, without the baggage, and he/she would be smart, strong, and relatively young. And, of course, Bradley would be replaced by a smart, strong, relatively young justice too. Both new justices would naturally be principled conservatives with excellent credentials.
But they aren't going to be removed. I predict a reprimand or at most censure. Still, I must say, that if the tables were turned and the liberal justice had done what Prosser did and the conservative justice had done what Bradley did, there would be cries for removing the justice who did what Bradley did. Look at the investigative file. Picture the Wisconsin protesters picking through that in search of material to make the strongest case against the justice who did what Bradley did. And if the Democratic party controlled the legislature? The protesters would be screaming for impeachment.
But the conservatives are mostly giving Bradley a pass. As long as Prosser's going to be okay, let's just forget about it. That means it paid off to frame a completely unfair charge against Prosser and demonize him in the press, which is exactly what damaged public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. Who did that? Who leaked the story to the politically partisan journalist, Bill Lueders? Surely, the judicial commission is going to tell us. It may not have been relevant to the question whether there should be a criminal prosecution — which would explain why the police investigative file doesn't tell us. But it's obviously central to the inquiry into judicial ethics.