Judges are supposed to work out their human frailty problems outside of public view. Which is why the "chokehold" incident should never have been leaked to the press. That's why my writing on the subject has focused on who leaked and why. I would like to think that it was someone other than one of the Justices, someone who didn't understand the stakes for the prestige of the court. If it was, in fact, one of the Justices, what was the reason? Why would you damage the reputation of the court like that instead of working on resolving the problems quietly internally?Now, the investigation has taken place and we have had the opportunity to read the entire file. It does not reveal who went to the media — to Bill Lueders of WisconsinWatch.org — with the story. It does reveal that the story originally published by Lueders was shamefully inadequate, because it said only that Justice Prosser "allegedly grabbed fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley around the neck in an argument." It had nothing about Bradley's initiating the physical encounter by "charging at" him and suddenly and deliberately getting right in his personal space, possibly with a fist in his face. Either Lueders left out Bradley's initial physical aggression, or he received the story in that inadequate form. So who talked to Lueders, and did that person tell him the story with crucial details omitted to cast Prosser in the worst possible light?
And don't tell me: Because choking somebody is a serious crime! If it were that straightforward, the choker should have been arrested — or the charge should have come to light — shortly after the incident. Instead, a politically partisan journalist broke the story 12 days later. Someone made a decision to go public through him, and that makes it look like a political tactic. Is that someone a supreme court justice? Intolerable.
Another thing we know from the investigation file is that, 2 days after the incident, Justice Bradley gave a carefully prepared speech to the assembled justices in which she framed — in her own terms — a problem that needed to be solved. Portraying Prosser as the workplace bully, she stated: "If I cannot get any assurance from you, the court, that this problem is going to be addressed, then I will go to the outside and take other means." Since she did not get that assurance, the record gives support to the inference that it was Justice Bradley who went to the media. The investigators did not ask her if she made good on her threat and took "other means" by going public through Bill Lueders, perhaps because it did not relate to whether a crime was committed, but I think the public deserves to know.
On page 43 of the investigative file, Justice Prosser seems to imply that it was Justice Bradley who leaked the story (and leaked it in a damagingly incomplete form):
Justice Prosser said when there is a charge made by a woman that a man choked you, and you leak it out to the press allover the world, and that man is on the WI Supreme Court, "You are doing absolute maximum damage to a public figure that you can do". Justice Prosser said he did not feel Justice Bradley was telling the truth because if she were, then she would have to say how she charged at him.It was not damaging solely to Prosser. It was damaging to the entire court and to the viability of the rule of law in Wisconsin. As I wrote, back in early July: "Why would you damage the reputation of the court like that instead of working on resolving the problems quietly internally?" I'm still trying to understand how anyone who cared about the prestige and legitimacy of the Wisconsin Supreme Court would take this matter public.
But we do know, from the text of Justice Bradley's own speech, that she thought the threat of going public was something she could use for her own purposes to compel the other justices to act as though the problem was Prosser and Prosser alone. Frame it my way, don't blame me at all, see me only as the victim, or I will take it upon myself to devastate this court's reputation. Even if Bradley was not the one who leaked to Lueders — in the all-Prosser's-fault form — that was, to put it mildly, injudicious and self-serving.
And I still have the question I had on July 3d:
Someone made a decision to go public through [the politically partisan journalist Bill Lueders], and that makes it look like a political tactic. Is that someone a supreme court justice?I said it then, and I can't see any reason to change my opinion: Intolerable.