March 22, 2011
What is civility? In your dreams
Imagine standing before seven justices in long black robes in a room that never fails to impress visitors. In your imagination, you are there on behalf of a client, let's say the non-partisan League of Women Voters, and just as you begin to address the court, imagine that one of the seven yells at the presiding officer, the chief justice. He hollers that the chief is a "total bitch" and says he will "destroy you and it won't be a ground war."
Had this happened, I believe your knees would go wobbly, your mind would race to 45 high school students in the room at the invitation of the chief justice. Yes, the one labeled a "total bitch."
Imagine the shock of the teacher accompanying the students. Hand raised, "Question, chief justice, is this normal behavior in our highest court?"
(No one has ever witnessed anything like the Justice Prosser explosion in conference other than the seven in the room, so there are no precedents to guide or follow. But no one denies Prosser said those words.)
While Prosser yelled his insults outside the court his statements were printed in the newspaper and calls are coming in from around the country. "What's going on in your courts?"
Words matter, particularly when uttered by a justice of our state Supreme Court. Civility matters, mutual respect matters. Justice Prosser responded to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he may have
"over-reacted." No kidding!
But, he explained, she goaded him into this temper tantrum. Blame the victim! I'm not making this up.
Such behavior should bring action from the Bar, but will any lawyer take on a sitting justice? How about at the joint appearance today? Will the moderator ask what Prosser had in mind when he threatened to "destroy" the chief justice? My goodness. We try for civility in court--Prosser is not the example we want to set for young people in the law.
Prosser, at a Marquette forum last night, took a stab at shifting attention from his inexcusable conduct by focusing on a post on his opponent's Facebook page. Sorry, Justice Prosser, you said it now you must explain it. Blaming the victim won't cut it.
His former campaign manager urged support for Prossser to preserve the court's conservative majority. No mention of civility.
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"He hollers that the Chief is a 'total bitch' and that he will 'destroy you and it won't be a ground war.'"
If it was my attorney who spoke like this, I would fire him and report him to the Bar Association.
If I was a parent whose child talked lie this, I would take away privileges while considering seeking professional help to learn how best to deal with the child's obvious anger management issues.
If I heard a husband address a wife in such terms, I'd counsel the woman to pack a bag, call a friend or a domestic abuse shelter, and get a restraining order.
And if I was a voter considering a candidate for the Supreme Court, I would look for a jurist capable of protecting the public from volatile, out-of-control bullies like David Prosser. I instead find it embarrassing to think of him holding a seat on the Court. He's gotta go!
-Jeff Pieterick | Waterloo, WI | March 22, 2011
Ed: Every lawyer takes an oath which states: "I will maintain the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers". The oath also states in part that "I will abstain from all offensive personality....."
Supreme Court Rule 20:8.4(g) provides that it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to violate the attorney's oath.
By calling the Chief Justice a "bitch" and threatening to "destroy her" has Prosser committed professional misconduct? Obviously he has. Will he be disciplined as he should be? Probably not!
-Tom Basting Sr. | Madison WI | March 22, 2011
The party that sprang multiple substance abuse driver Jeff Woods to vote because they needed it. The party that held up assemblymen Hintz as a hero who told a Repbulican woman your F@#%ing dead after trying to get a happy ending at a message parlor. The party who aplauded 14 senetors not doing their job one of whom compared Walker to Hitler. Do you really think anyone can take your call for civility seriously? or even believe you mean it?
-SAW | NP, WI | March 22, 2011
I would say that Prosser has outlived his usefulness as a member of the judiciary. Oust the S.O.B.! There! I can call Prosser an S.O.B. because I'm not a member of the court. I can oust him because I have a vote.
-Franz Fripplfrappl | Madison | March 22, 2011