Justice Prosser Back in the Spotlight

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David ProsserEmbattled Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser is in the spotlight once again, this time for a conflict-of-interest in a pending case involving Koch-funded Tea Party groups.

The case, Wisconsin Prosperity Network v. Myse, involves a challenge by Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity to proposed campaign disclosure rules passed in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision (and subsequently enjoined by the Wisconsin Supreme Court). Attorney Jim Troupis is arguing against the transparency requirements on behalf of Americans for Prosperity and the other Tea Party-affiliated groups. Troupis Law Office was also paid $75,000 by Justice Prosser to represent his campaign during last spring's contentious supreme court election recount.

Prosser's Refusal to Recuse?

Justice Prosser issued a letter to the parties in the Wisconsin Prosperity Network case last week, stating "I believe I can be completely impartial," but asking that "the parties and their attorneys confer to determine whether I should participate in the case if it is argued in the near future." Prosser's campaign manager told reporters the Justice would stay on the case.

Adam Skaggs, an attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice (which filed an amicus brief in the case), told the Capital Times Prosser's letter "is a begrudging acknowledgement that there's been a lot of criticism, and it's an attempt to stay on the case in spite of the obvious ethical rules that require him to step aside."

Judicial ethics experts interviewed by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel agreed. "The fact that the judge has had this kind of extremely close relationship with this lawyer [Troupis] -- a relationship built on dependency and trust -- in the recent past is something that might well cause a reasonable person to question the judge's ability to be impartial," said Professor Monroe Freedman at New York's Hofstra Law School. Troupis having worked to help keep Prosser on the bench makes the case even more problematic, according to New York University School of Law professor Stephen Gillers and Indiana University-Bloomington Maurer Law School professor Charles Geyh.

The editorial boards of both the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and Appleton Post-Crescent have called for Prosser to recuse himself. (Update: so has the so New York Times)

One More Controversy

This is the latest in a long string of controversies surrounding Justice Prosser. His reelection campaign turned into a referendum on Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's collective bargaining bill, elevating what would typically be a mundane win for the incumbent into a national news story. In the runup to election day, it was revealed that Prosser had called Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson a "bitch" and threatened to "destroy" her. On election night, challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg was initially declared the winner, only to have results shift after a Republican County Clerk announced the discovery of thousands of unreported votes, prompting Kloppenburg to call for a recount.

Not long after the recount came out in Prosser's favor, he and the Wisconsin Supreme Court's conservative majority issued a decision upholding Governor Walker's collective bargaining law, despite the court not having a complete factual record and not holding any hearings. The rushed decision was apparently in response to threats from legislative Republicans, and Prosser's concurrence was critiqued as lacking a factual basis.

The day before, as the Justices debated whether to issue a rushed judgment or allow for full hearings, Prosser grabbed fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley by the neck in the heat of the debate. Women's groups called for Prosser to step down while investigations unfolded but he refused.

Conflict-of-Interest with Right-Wing Counsel

The latest controversy is made no easier by the fact that the attorney, Jim Troupis, is known as the go-to attorney for the Wisconsin right-wing. He advised Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and other Republicans when they issued arrest warrants for Senate Democrats who left the state to delay a vote on Governor Walker's collective bargaining bill -- Troupis said the Democrats caused a "constitutional crisis" he compared to 9-11 -- and represented Club for Growth in a civil case many considered frivolous against the fleeing Senate Democrats. He also represented legislative Republicans in their redistricting efforts, and sits on the Board of Directors of the right-wing, Koch-connected think tank MacIver Institute, and more.

If Prosser recuses himself and the court splits 3-3, the campaign transparency regulations would likely remain in place. The Wisconsin Prosperity Network v. Myse case is scheduled for oral arguments on Tuesday, September 6.

The Center for Media and Democracy also submitted an amicus brief in the Wisconsin Prosperity Network v. Myse case.


Prosser and the other Koch cronies have a very well thought out strategy: If the political group - lets call it Koch Suckas of America, donates $100,000.00 to the Prosser campaign, and it does not have to be disclosed, Prosser no longer has an ethical dilemna if he has to hear a case brougt by Koch Suckas of America, because he would not know that they gave him the money. Get it? Ignorance is bliss. Prosser could pretend to be impartial, and hand the Koch Suckas the decision they paid for becuase no one can ever say he took money from Koch Suckas of America. All Prosser has to do now is sign the opinion sitting on his desk written by an associate at the Troupis firm that says it is a violation of free speach to force the disclosure of names of politcal dollar donars donors and we are on our way to fascisim - one nation under Koch. I'm sure that Troupis, as a lawyer is disgusted by this to, but he is paid good money to forget about those nasty ethics that keep creeping up on him. On another point, maybe someone can tell me why corporations can have free speach, but cannot be put in prison when they put out products that they know will kill people. It is silly to think that a corporation can speak. The corporation is not speaking, the people who run it are. Just like in murder, the corporation is not doing the killing when it puts out a Ford Pinto (Ford knew it would explode if crashed into, but hid the facts, and decided it would be cheaper to pay the families of dead people than to recall the car) the ceo and the other decision makers are the murderers. If corporations want free speach, lets give them the other freedoms to, like the freedom to spend your life in jail when they decide the profit line favors dead people over safety. Wisconsin is open for business all right, and in four years when the Kochs are gone with all of our money, we will pay for the ruin they left.

One just has to look at the last post by justice4sale to illustrate the stupidity of the left. All they can do is moan, and moan some more, then use foul language, then moan some more, then call names. This is an indication of a very small minded very partisan fool. So the Koch brothers donate money to Republicans. So what? Would you like to stop that practice? George Soros donates lots more money to the Democrats! Would you like to stop that practice? Labor Unions not only donate money to the Democrats, they organize riots and do damage to public property. That is why they are losing in EVERY election. They lost the Supreme court race, they spent millions trying to regain the legislature. They didn't. How many times must you get your but kicked before you understand this is no longer a left leaning state because of the misdeeds of the Democratic Party? You need to grow us a lot! With posts like yours, you are adding to your party's losses.

man oh man incredible, you did your best to dodge the issue. you know as well as the rest of us Prosser should recuse himself. come on chicken, lets hear you argue the issue. yes, i would like to stop the practice of our highest courts whoring themselves out. second, the koch brothers do more damage to public propery than any union mob, ever hear of pollution? thats what the kochs have in store for wisconsin. ever watch someone die of cancer? you will be seeing a lot more when wisconsin adopts texas environmental standards. cancer does not care if you are democrat or republican, we breath the same air and drink the same water. finally, the issue is not donations, the issue is whether a judge should should decide a case for someone he took money from. come on and tell us why that is ok.