He said; she said; they said. What happened in the office of Justice Ann Walsh Bradley the day before the release of the decision upholding a bill to curtail the collective bargaining rights of public employees is open to question as several sources have given conflicting versions of the incident:
Sources told the Journal Sentinel two very different stories Saturday about what occurred. Some confirmed Bradley's version. According to others, Bradley charged Prosser, who raised his hands to defend himself and made contact with her neck.
Bradley felt Prosser "was attacking the chief justice," the source said.
Before leaving, Prosser "put his hands around her neck in what (Bradley) described as a chokehold," the source said.
"He did not exert any pressure, but his hands were around her neck," the source said.
The source said the act "was in no way playful."
But another source told the Journal Sentinel that Bradley attacked Prosser.
"She charged him with fists raised," the source said.
Prosser "put his hands in a defensive posture," the source said. "He blocked her."
In doing so, the source said, he made contact with Bradley's neck.
Another source said the justices were arguing over the timing of the release of the opinion, which legislative leaders had insisted they needed by June 14 because of their work on the state budget. As the justices discussed the case, Abrahamson said she didn't know whether the decision would come out this month, the source said.
At that point, Prosser said he'd lost all confidence in her leadership. Bradley then came across the room "with fists up," the source said. Prosser put up his hands to push her back.
Two to one says Bradley advanced toward Prosser threatening him. You will probably get different stories from others who were present, all dependent on the political point of view of the "witness."
But reading the JSOnline article, I came across this interesting piece of histroy on Bradley. From some emails Bradley sent in March complaining about Prosser's "abusive" behavior:
"I've been trying over the years to (figure out) best how to deal with it and one way is to call it out, and that's what this email was," Bradley said in March. "I've thought of other ways that have been unsuccessful. This was to describe it as it is and then you can deal with it."
At the time of Prosser's outburst to Abrahamson, Bradley said she considered going to law enforcement.
It "crossed my mind but I didn't want to do it," she said.
"This . . . for me at least in part is about the institution," she added. "This behavior shouldn't be occurring at the workplace."
An hour and a half before sending her Feb. 18, 2010, email to all the justices, Bradley sent an email to Abrahamson and Crooks expressing her frustration with Prosser's outbursts.
"As you both know, I am no longer willing to tolerate Prosser's abusive behavior," Bradley wrote. "I have been at a loss just how to proceed."
First of all, that is the first time I have ever heard of a judge at any level complain about "an abusive workplace." This, after all, isn't a factory floor. It is the chambers of a state supreme court. Contention is expected. Disparate personalities are guaranteed. Political arguments are a given. I imagine there has been equally abusive language on both sides, as is characteristic when strong personalities clash. To automatically grant Bradley a pass without hearing some of the things she has thrown at Prosser and other conservatives is ridiculous. This should be taken into account because as we've seen in the past, when liberals insult conservatives, they see it as speaking the truth, not as a personal attack. Just ask Rep. Alan Grayson or former Rep. Weiner if they are abusive toward their Republican colleagues. No doubt Bradley thinks herself entirely innocent in the matter of provoking others on the court.
Reality may very well be quite different.