The abrupt announcement earlier this year by State Supreme Court Justice David Prosser that he would be retiring was soon followed by the equally surprising announcement from the conservative-dominated Court’s Republican Chief Justice, he would be memorialized by having the state law library renamed in his honor. Based on both his dyspeptic judicial temperament and acts as a judge that have greatly undermined respect and trust in the state’s high court there is little reason to memorialize the tenure of David Prosser.
Consider just a few of Prosser’s more notorious episodes:
Prosser announced his retirement in late April 2016, mere days after receiving a $25,000 in-kind contribution from the Republican Party of Wisconsin for the services of a fundraising consultant. Prosser has carried a large campaign debt since he was narrowly elected to a ten-year term in 2011.
The media widely reported an incident in which Prosser was accused choking a fellow Supreme Court Justice in a fit of rage. Prosser successfully sought to avoid being held accountable and the recusal of three fellow conservative justices prevented Prosser from being disciplined for the physical attack on a female colleague.
The Verbal Assault
It was also reported how Prosser lashed out verbally at a female colleague, calling the then chief justice “a total bitch” and vowing he would “destroy” her. In response to media inquiries about his verbal tirades the at-the-time 68-year-old Prosser claimed he was justified in his outburst and was goaded into it by others.
Among documents collected as part of a John Doe investigation of alleged illegal coordination between the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker and outside groups were emails showing that the same groups and individuals were working on behalf of Prosser’s 2011 election.
The Conflict of Interest
Despite having benefitted from massive spending on his behalf from groups named in the John Doe investigation of political corruption, Prosser voted to terminate the investigation in which these parties were involved. He argued that any conflict of interest he may have had would have expired by the time of his decision to protect his campaign benefactors from additional inquiries.
The Rule Change
Prosser cast the deciding vote on a split court to adopt a rule written by major judicial campaign funders the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the Wisconsin Realtors Association weakening the standards for when a judge can be removed from a case.
The Other Scandal
Prosser testified on behalf of disgraced former Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen during his trial for political corruption while on the Supreme Court. He spoke of his trust of Jensen and admitted that he engaged in the same conduct as Jensen was accused of when he was the Assembly Republican leader.
David Prosser’s intemperate, scandal-ridden tenure on Wisconsin’s high court has come to an end. His unprincipled misconduct should be used as a shameful cautionary tale, not endorsed by his receiving this honor.