A special prosecutor has declined to file any charges in the scuffle that broke out in chambers between Wisconsin Supreme Court justices David Prosser and Ann Walsh Bradley last spring.
"The totality of the facts and the circumstances and all of the evidence that I reviewed did not support my filing criminal charges," Barrett said Thursday.
She did note, however, that varying accounts were given by witnesses - a group that would have included most of the justices and colleagues - and said that was common in cases with multiple witnesses. Barrett offered no commentary on the merits of the accusations against the two judges or on whether their conduct was fitting for justices in the state's highest court.
"It's not my job to determine what's becoming," Barrett said.
Bradley has said Prosser put her in a "chokehold" during a June argument over a case in her chambers. Others have said Bradley came at Prosser with fists raised and he put up his hands to block her or push her back.
The incident occurred June 13, a day before the deeply divided court issued a 4-3 ruling upholding Republican Gov. Scott Walker's legislation curtailing collective bargaining for public employees.
Fallout from this incident might be very interesting. Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson might open the doors of the court and allow the public to see how cases are decided.
Breaking her silence about the altercation in a written statement Thursday, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson said she would propose "the presumption will be that court conferences are open to the public," as a way to lead the fractious court back toward civility.
Abrahamson was not available for an interview, and a court spokeswoman said she could not confirm whether the chief justice was referring to deliberations on individual cases. But meetings on the court's rules and finances are usually open to the public already, unlike the justices' deliberations.
No other appellate court in the nation opens its deliberations to public scrutiny, former state Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske said. If Wisconsin's high court did so, "that does create huge problems in decision-making," as citizens see for the first time how the justices' reasoning and even rulings can shift in the months between the time a case is argued and time a decision is handed down, warned Geske, a Marquette University law professor.
I'm not sure it would be that bad. But it would probably mean that the real deliberations would simply be taken somewhere else and a show put on for the public hearings.