In the last few months we have witnessed the dangers one-party rule can bring when it rests in the hands of extremists. In the current political environment it is more important than ever to have checks and balances among the three branches of government, because members of our current state Legislature have proven they are rubber stamps for Scott Walker’s agenda. This makes the Supreme Court election on April 5 vital to Wisconsin.
Incumbent Justice David Prosser is a partisan who very early in his campaign pledged he would be a complement to Walker and the Republican majority. One would expect a justice on the Supreme Court to avoid making such partisan appeals and rather commit to basing decisions on the law and the facts of each case.
Perhaps we should have anticipated Prosser’s hyper-partisanship, because for many years he was a Republican legislator and a leader of the Wisconsin GOP. His political ally Gov. Tommy Thompson appointed him to the Supreme Court.
The Greater Wisconsin Committee is currently running an ad highlighting that Prosser and Walker voted together 95 percent of the time when they both served in the Assembly. Prosser’s partisan and extreme record is detailed at prosserequalswalker.com.
That record includes anti-equality extremism. In the 1980s, when moderate Republicans joined with Democrats in making Wisconsin the first state to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, Prosser voted against the landmark legislation.
Very soon we can expect a flood of ads from Prosser’s special interest supporters. If they follow past form, they will tout a “tough on crime” message. Since Prosser was never a judge prior to being appointed to the state’s highest court, his special interest allies might try to tout his time as a district attorney.
However, that tactic could easily backfire. For example, as a DA in 1979, Prosser told a mother that he did not want to prosecute the priest who abused her sons. The priest went on to continue a pattern of abuse and was eventually sent to prison. This failure to prosecute will be very hard for Prosser to avoid while trying to boast about his supposed “tough on crime” credentials.
There have also been questions about Prosser’s over-the-top behavior on the state’s highest court. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently highlighted this issue in a stunning report. During a disagreement with Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, Prosser reportedly called her a “bitch” and threatened to “destroy” her, according to the Republican-leaning newspaper. This kind of conduct is unacceptable in any context, but from someone seeking a 10-year term on Wisconsin’s highest court, it goes far beyond the pale.
The people of Wisconsin have an opportunity to rid the court of the toxic dynamic that currently plagues it. During that process we could also start to see a merciful end to the radical one-party rule that has so badly divided our state and compromised our entire government. But none of this will even be possible if we don’t get out and vote with one voice on April 5.