I got a good laugh today when I read a piece written by Chris Walker (no relation to Scott Walker) declaring Justice David Prosser unfit to be a judge because of an outburst of anger. From the outset, I knew it would be a tough argument to make. To conclude that a judge is unfit for duty on the basis of a single act requires that the act be egregious - something like say extortion, murder, or pedophilia for instance. So, let's take a look at Chris' argument. He begins,
"If you called your boss a bad word and threatened them professionally, how much longer would you expect to keep your job? Justice David Prosser, who is seeking re-election to the State Supreme Court, is hoping you'd overlook such an indiscretion."
Calling your boss a bad word? Threatening to destroy a career? I hope Chris brings a little more than this. As it turns out, Justice Prosser - angered by what he perceived as political betrayal - called Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson a bitch. Now granted, that was a bad choice of words. Calling a female colleague a bitch is likely to be frowned upon, especially by women; but if it's a first time offense, it doesn't justify a discharge or resignation. (And let's face it Chris, Justice Abrahamson is not Prosser's boss, but a colleague).
The morality of calling a woman a bitch has a lot of different contexts. In most cases, it's not appropriate. In very few cases, it can be considered justified (not saying it is) if the woman happens to be extraordinarily divisive, vengeful, malicious, disparaging, and about a dozen or so other terms used for untrustworthy people.
In terms of political wisdom, Prosser made a miscalculation. He could have chosen other terms that convey the same notion without using such a culturally insensitive slur. But this isn't the point. The question is whether Prosser is unfit because of a verbal outburst.
Again, let's hear from Chris:
"If Prosser is unable to work well with others, how are we to expect him to serve in a branch of government that requires him to come to a consensus with his colleagues?"
Ummm . . . it was only one outburst. And what does an outburst have to do with a consensus? Sometimes people get loud with each other and then come to an agreement afterward - at least that happens in my family. It sort of begs the question of why Prosser was so motivated to make that outburst. It happened during a time when liberal Justices were trying to railroad a conservative Justice over the way he conducted a prior campaign. Does railroading a Justice sound like coming to a consensus, Chris? Would you render those liberal Justices unfit for duty?
During Justice Prosser's episode of intemperance, he also threatened to destroy Abrahamson. He explained it as telling the truth about the way she marginalizes conservative justices. Of course, this makes somewhat of a difference. If Prosser is talking about destroying a person's career through a legal means, then his threat can be relegated simply to lawful exploration. It can be reasonably argued that deposing a person that should be deposed is the right thing to do despite a vengeful motive.
If, however, Prosser meant his threat as a threat to bodily harm Abrahamson, then we have a serious problem. Yet, this is the first time we're hearing about the threat - three weeks before Prosser's re-election and one year after it happened. So who's really is trying to destroy whose career here? Apparently, Prosser's colleagues didn't take his outburst of anger as a serious threat of bodily harm or else it would have been dealt with earlier.
This leaves us with Chris Walker's argument. What does one outburst of anger - of which we are all guilty - have to do with the judicial ability to serve on a court? Chris thinks his argument is logically consequential, even though nothing illegal occurred. He also likens Prosser to an abuser with a propensity to blame the abused. Really? If you're going to assassinate someone's character, then perhaps the fair thing to do is call in character witnesses. We see it in a court of law all the time. The list of people willing to vouch for Prosser's even-keel nature is quite overwhelming, which also include my own experiences with the man.
My favorite part about Chris' post is the last sentence that says, "Vote Kloppenburg on April 5th."
Okay, I guess we can see why Chris wants his argument to work. If there is anything that should invalidate a candidate's campaign for Supreme Court Justice, Chris, it should be the fact that JoAnne Kloppenburg is in the pocket of big labor. A letter written by the American Federation of Teachers Local 212 depicts Assistant Attorney General Kloppenburg as being a pro-union advocate that will reorder the balance the court in the favor of labor. The letter said,
"The makeup of the Supreme Court is currently 4-3 in favor of anti-union justices. A Kloppenburg victory would swing the balance to our side." "It's time to get even. Vote Koppenburg on April 5."
Interesting. The end of their letter sounds remarkably similar to the end of Chris Walker's blog post. I cannot over-emphasize how dangerous it is for labor unions to get their hands in the state's Supreme Court, a court that is supposed to be, nay, needs to be non-partisan. Hey Chris, if your reading, thanks for the low-hanging fruit, but you might want to consider why a teachers union wants Prosser out of the court - and it has nothing to do with Governor Scott Walker. Could repealing school choice have anything to do with it?