Tag Archives: legal system

Prosser to retire from Wisconsin Supreme Court

Right-wing Justice David T. Prosser Jr. has announced he will retire from the Wisconsin Supreme Court on July 31.

Justice David T. Prosser Jr.
Justice David T. Prosser Jr.

In a letter to Gov. Scott Walker, Prosser said, “It has been a tremendous honor to serve the people of Wisconsin in various capacities for more than 40 years. During this time, I have had the exceptional privilege of working in all three branches of state government, including 18 years as a representative in the State Assembly and 18 years as a justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.”

Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Drake Roggensack issued a statement after the announcement: “Justice David T. Prosser is an exceptionally bright and thoughtful jurist whose presence on the court will be greatly missed. David has brought unique perspectives to court discussions, thereby increasing the court’s ability to understand difficult problems presented to us for resolution.”

Prosser was first appointed to the Supreme Court by Republican Gov. Tommy G. Thompson in 1998 to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of former Justice Janine P. Geske.

Prosser was elected to a 10-year term in 2001 and re-elected in 2011, in a close race with huge voting irregularities in Waukesha County.

Prosser has been a chief ally of Gov. Scott Walker and, when the justice ran for re-election in 2011 he had strong support from right-wing organizations, including the anti-gay Family Research Council’s Super PAC.

FRC, in that campaign, criticized Prosser’s main rival, JoAnne Kloppenburg, as having “liberal special interests.”

Prosser also benefitted in the campaign from about $1 million in advertising from two groups linked to Koch Industries – Citizens for a Strong America and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. In March 2011, Prosser voted with the Supreme Court’s conservative majority to overturn a lower court decision allowing a public challenge to a permit that gave Koch’s Georgia Pacific plants more leeway in dumping phosphorus into Fox River waterways.

A year earlier, Prosser gained national name recognition after calling Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson “a total bitch” and threatening to “destroy her” in a closed-door meeting.

The media also reported that in June 2011 Prosser got into an altercation with Justice Ann Walsh Bradley in her office, putting his hands around her neck during a meeting before the court announced its split-ruling upholding Walker’s anti-union legislation.

Walker issued a statement this week saying, “Prosser has faithfully served the state of Wisconsin for decades. Throughout his almost 18 years of service on the state Supreme Court, he demonstrated his love for the law and commitment to Wisconsin’s citizens.”

Prior to joining the court, he served as a commissioner on the Wisconsin Tax Appeals Commission from 1997 to 1998 and as a representative in the Assembly from 1978 through 1996, including two years as speaker and five years as minority leader.

Before that, Prossser served as a district attorney in Outagamie County, administrative assistant to then-U.S. Rep. Harold V. Froehlich and as an attorney-advisor for the U.S. Department of Justice.

GOP obstructionists strangling the justice system

Due to partisan gridlock, millions of Americans are not getting their day in court. Political gamesmanship has stalled the nation’s judicial system to such an extent that U.S. citizens can no longer count on their constitutional right to a fair and speedy trial.

The United States currently has the largest backlog of federal criminal and civil cases in American history, according to a recent article that appeared in the congressional publication Roll Call. Since Republicans took control of the Senate in January, the number of vacancies in the federal judiciary has tripled to more than 80 — and 30 of them are considered emergencies, according to authors Anisha Singh and Pete Haviland-Eduah. (Singh is with the Center for American Progress, Haviland-Eduah is a masters candidate at the Gerald R. Ford School for Public Policy at the University of Michigan.)

The two writers say the Senate is on track this year to confirm the fewest judicial nominees since 1953. The situation is more critical in some states than in others. In Pennsylvania, where there are seven judicial vacancies, the average felony trial takes more than a year.

The blame, of course, lies at the doorstep of Republican Senate obstructionists. Senators who belong to the GOP’s extremist tea party faction have predicated their agendas on thwarting President Barack Obama at every turn. Their favored method is refusing to approve his nominees, especially his judicial and ambassadorial nominees. They don’t seem to care that such childishness hurts the nation.

GOP senators who once took their positions seriously are now falling in line behind the extremists. They’re so afraid of taking a vote that could be seen as cooperating with Obama that they’ve given the inmates charge of the asylum to avoid a political challenge from their right flank the next time they’re up for re-election. Holding on to their jobs has taken precedence over doing their jobs.

To be fair, previous senates, including Democrat-controlled senates, have played the same game, but never so conspicuously and at such magnitude. Society is suffering a level of harm from judicial obstructionism today that’s likely unprecedented. Increasing wait times for defendants — including, of course, innocent defendants — translates into exponentially higher legal fees and irreparable life disruptions, such as lost incomes, jobs and families. Extended wait times force innocent people to languish in jail for longer periods. The situation is particularly acute for prisoners awaiting appeals, since appeals courts have been hit the hardest by the Senate’s failure to act.

The nation’s criminal justice system is already broken. As WiG reported Sept. 10 in the story “Wisconsin’s criminal justice policies trap people of color in prison system,” sentencing for non-violent offenses is ridiculously harsh and unequally applied, racial profiling by police is rampant, prisons are overcrowded and self-perpetuating, and parole almost invariably leads back to jail.
Meanwhile, the courts have lost the trust of the people. They’re so transparently partisan that the outcomes of cases can be accurately predicted by considering who appointed the presiding judges — or, in Wisconsin, who paid for their elections.

Now, on top of all that, petulant GOP senators are holding the system hostage with their petty, kindergarten behavior.

Voters should insist their representatives take care of the nation’s business, not hold it back out of spite. That’s what voters are paying for with their taxes. But, unfortunately for America, it’s the voters who are ultimately responsible for the Senate’s reckless behavior. Too many voters insist on it in the name of ideological purity. And too many others simply aren’t paying attention or considering the repercussions of so many unfilled benches — at least not until the situation affects them.

Republicans contend that government should emulate the virtues of the free market. But what company would retain senior-level managers who blatantly refused to perform their jobs out of spite?