Justice David Prosser facing ethics charges

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MADISON -- The Wisconsin Judicial Commission filed formal ethics charges against Justice David Prosser Friday for an alleged incident that happened in June 2011.

Prosser allegedly put his hands on the neck of his colleague, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, during a confrontation in Bradley's office on June 13, 2011. There were supposedly four other justices in the room.

"This case is not about whether or not David Prosser is a good or bad person, whether or not David Prosser is a good or bad judge or what his judicial philosophies are," Frank Gimbel the commission's special prosecutor said. "This case is about whether or not his actions in June of 2011, when he admittedly put his hands around the neck of a colleague are consistent with the ethical expectations that we have with our elected judges."

"The charges filed by the Judicial Commission are partisan, unreasonable, and largely untrue," Prosser said in a statement. "They will be vigorously contested because I am innocent."

"I just don't agree with that at all," Gimbel said about Prosser's statement. "The judicial commission is a non-partisan part of the state government. The people that are on there are people of high integrity."

Gimbel also said that he has met with Prosser and his lawyer in hopes of reaching a settlement. However, that did not happen so the charges were formally filed.

"I still think there's a possibility that the case could be settled. I hope it will be. But we're prepared to take this all the way through," Gimbel added.

Gimbel has asked the chief appellate court judge to set up a three-judge panel to handle the complaint. If they support the allegations of the complaint, they can recommend a sanction to the Wisconsin State Supreme Court, who is the only body legally able to sanction a judge.

Even though four of the other five justices were present during the incident, they would not be able to recuse themselves because no other court can decide this case by state law.

"It is the opinion of my office that at least five of those justices, absent Bradley and Prosser, would have to make a decision on a sanction if a three-judge panel found that we had proved that there was an ethics violation," Gimbel said.

Prosser could face a range of punishments from the Supreme Court including reprimand, censure, suspension without pay, or even removal from office.