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