There will be no criminal charges against the Wisconsin Supreme Court justice accused of choking a colleague in chambers, the special prosecutor investigating the case told The Associated Press Thursday.
Justice Ann Walsh Bradley had alleged that Justice David Prosser put her in a “chokehold” during an argument in chambers in June over the passage of Gov. Scott Walker’s budget bill. Prosser’s defenders said Bradley rushed at him with her fists raised and he put up his hands in self-defense.
With all but one of the state high court justices present for the altercation, and offering widely different stories of what happened, Sauk County District Attorney Patricia Barrett, who was given the case by local prosecutors and law enforcement who recused themselves, decided not to pursue charges, she told the AP.
“The totality of the facts and the circumstances and all of the evidence that I reviewed did not support my filing criminal charges,” Barrett said.
Barrett did not disclose how she came to that decision, but said witnesses had different versions of what happened. She didn’t elaborate.
Prosser, a conservative justice on the officially nonpartisan court, did not seek reconciliation with Bradley in a statement he issued after Barrett’s announcement.
“Justice Ann Walsh Bradley made the decision to sensationalize an incident that occurred at the Supreme Court,” Prosser said. “I was confident the truth would come out and it did. I am gratified that the prosecutor found these scurrilous charges were without merit. I have always maintained that once the facts of this incident were examined, I would be cleared. I look forward to the details becoming public record.”
Bradley, a liberal justice, released a statement defending her decision to make the skirmish public.
“My focus from the outset has not been one of criminal prosecution, but rather addressing workplace safety,” she said. “I contacted law enforcement the very night the incident happened but did not request criminal prosecution. Rather, I sought law enforcement’s assistance to try to have the entire court address informally this workplace safety issue that has progressed over the years. To that end, chief of (Capitol Police Charles) Tubbs promptly met with the entire court, but the efforts to address workplace safety concerns were rebuffed. Law enforcement then referred the matter for a formal investigation and I cooperated fully with the investigation.”
Prosser was reelected to a 10-year term in a contentious election in April. Bradley’s term is up in 2015.
By: Reid J. Epstein, Politico, August 25, 2011
After Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican in his first months in office, announced early this year that he wanted to cut collective bargaining rights for public workers, relations between political parties in his newly red State Capitol fell into a long, deep frost.
But after six months of bruising partisan fights, Mr. Walker seemed to issue an utterly different message this month. He said he wanted to meet with Democrats and to find shared agenda items — an invitation that has been met with polite acceptance and deep skepticism.
“My thought is, you start out with small things, you build trust, you move forward, you keep working on things and you try and pick as many things that are things that people can clearly work together on,” Mr. Walker, who may face a recall election next year, said in an interview.
In the months after a flurry of Republican wins of governors’ offices and state legislatures in 2010, perhaps nowhere was the partisan rancor more pronounced than in the nation’s middle — places like Wisconsin and Ohio, where fights over labor unions exploded. But now, at least in those states, there are signs that the same Republicans see a need to show, at least publicly, a desire to play well with others.
In both states, critics dismiss the moves as desperate attempts to shore up sinking popularity ratings or disingenuous, tardy strategies to appear agreeable after already ramming through their agendas.
“It’s all P.R. — none of it is substantive,” Mark Miller, the Democrats’ minority leader in the Wisconsin State Senate, said earlier this month, before Mr. Walker held what some described as a “cordial” meeting with the Democratic leaders last week.
Whatever the true substance of the offers, the recent tones in Ohio and Wisconsin do appear to show one thing: With threats of recalls and bill repeals, with public dismay in recent months over the partisan stalemate in Washington on the debt ceiling, and with battleground-state presidential politics looming in 2012, governing with majorities has turned out in some states to be more complicated than it may have first appeared.
Across the nation, partisan relations in statehouses where Republicans made significant gains last fall have varied widely, and in many cases there are no signs of softening messages — or even the need for such a thing. But leaders in other states, including some that are expected to consider limits to unions in the months ahead, are closely watching what unfolds now in Ohio and Wisconsin, the states that became the unexpected battle zones for an earlier season of discontent.
In Columbus, Democrats and union leaders were enraged this year when Gov. John R. Kasich, another first-term Republican governor, and the Republicans who now control both chambers of the legislature pushed through — mostly along partisan lines— a law that would limit the rights of public workers to bargain collectively.
Republicans in Ohio advocated for the measure as the logical response to shrunken budgets in towns, cities and counties. But union leaders and Democrats — and a group calling itself We Are Ohio — spent months collecting more than 900,000 valid signatures (hundreds of thousands more than needed) to put the law to a vote in a statewide referendum in November. A campaign, which is expected to draw significant interest and spending from political groups in Ohio and nationwide, is likely to begin in earnest soon.
Last week, Mr. Kasich and Republican leaders sent a letter to the union organizers, calling for a meeting to discuss a compromise. The leaders said they still believed in the law they had passed, and a spokesman for Mr. Kasich would not say precisely what areas the Republicans were willing to give in on. “We are prepared to move forward immediately with legislative action to implement any agreement on changes we are able to reach together,” the letter read.
“We ought to get to the table and we ought to talk about it,” Mr. Kasich told reporters on Friday, meeting with them in a room full of empty seats and placards for the absent organizers, although the organizers said they had turned down the invitation. “Is it too late?” Mr. Kasich asked. “It’s never too late.”
Rob Nichols, a spokesman for Mr. Kasich, said the new invitation did not mark any shift in Mr. Kasich’s approach; the governor had sought to talk to labor groups during the legislative fight, Mr. Nichols said, and some representatives had engaged in private discussions over the issue again in June before the unions ended those talks, he said. “He, more than most, has a long history of working across party lines,” Mr. Nichols said.
But critics balked at the notion that any real talks had been offered before or that any true, concrete compromises — not just photo opportunities for a public fatigued by partisan rancor — were being offered now.
“If they’re honestly coming forward for a compromise, repeal the bill and then we’ll talk,” said Melissa Fazekas, a spokeswoman for We Are Ohio, explaining why representatives for the group had declined to meet with Mr. Kasich on Friday. “If they wanted to get along, they probably should have tried to during the legislative process instead of locking people out.”
In Wisconsin, partisan relations — and that state’s fight over limits to collective bargaining — have proved still uglier.
In the weeks after Mr. Walker proposed the limits in February, state lawmakers, newly dominated by Republicans in the Capitol, split in two. The minority Senate Democrats fled the state to try to block a vote on the measure. The Republicans issued the lawmaking equivalent of warrants against them, and at one point, threatened that the Democrats had to collect their paychecks in person — or not get them at all. And, as protesters screamed outside his closed office door, Mr. Walker firmly defended the bargaining cuts and said his administration was “certainly looking at all legal options” against the other party.
But after a summer of expensive, brutal recall election efforts against nine state senators — Democrats for having fled the state, and Republicans for having supported the bargaining cuts — Mr. Walker seemed to be sounding a different, softer note. He said he had called Democratic leaders in the Legislature even before the polls closed in some of this month’s recalls, which, in the end, maintained the Republican majorities in both legislative chambers, though by a slimmer margin of 17 to 16 in the Senate.
Democrats in the state had harsh theories about what was behind Mr. Walker’s sudden wish to get along. Some said he had already accomplished a stunningly partisan agenda, including the bargaining cuts, an austere budget, a voter identification law, a concealed-firearms provision and a redistricting map that favored Republicans, and was now hoping to appear to be reaching out. Others said he feared a different recall election effort — against him — next year, as well as creating a drag in the state on any Republican presidential ticket.
“This is totally phony — a totally unbelievable act of desperation,” said Graeme Zielinski, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party. “It will fade away and return soon enough to the scorched-earth method that has marked his career.”
Reflecting on the start of his term, Mr. Walker said that he wished he had spent more time “building a case” with the public for why collective bargaining cuts could shore up budgets, but that he remained a firm supporter of the cuts themselves — a fact that seems certain to complicate any effort for bipartisanship now.
“I’m not thinking that just because we snap our fingers that suddenly everybody’s going to run out and work together and it’s all going to work perfectly,” the governor said.
By: Monica Davey, The New York Times, August 21, 2011
The last two Wisconsin recalls ended in victory for two incumbent Democrats, leaving the Republicans with a 17-to-16 majority in the State Senate.
The Democrats prevailed handily last night — State Sen. Bob Wirch won in southeastern Wisconsin with 58 percent of the vote and Democratic Sen. Jim Holperin won in the northern part of the state with 55 percent.
The bottom line: Two Republicans were recalled from the Senate, while not one Democrat lost a recall race. Republican had hoped there would be a backlash against Democratic senators who left the state to prevent a quorum during the battles earlier this year over Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s proposals to strip away the collective-bargaining rights of public employee unions. That backlash did not materialize.
What’s clear is that the fight has moved public opinion the Democrats’ way, but not as fast or as dramatically as the Democrats had hoped. Wisconsin’s premier progressive political writer, John Nichols, noted that Walker’s opponents “have prevailed in the majority of recall elections and claimed the majority of votes cast in what many saw as a statewide referendum on Walker’s policies.”
Nichols acknowledged that the Democrats’ majority in these races was narrow — roughly 243,000 votes to 239,000 — but he added that “Walker won these districts in 2010, and . . . Republican Senate candidates easily won six of them in 2008.”
So will there be a recall campaign against Walker? My hunch is yes, but Walker seems to be trying to blunt this prospect by sounding uncharacteristically moderate. And at least one moderate Republican in the State Senate could give Democrats the ability to block any further legislation that veers too far right. This could lower the political temperature and that, paradoxically, could help Walker slip by a recall.
But anybody who thinks that the country is still in the same mood as it was in November 2010 should consult these results. In Wisconsin, there was a backlash against a right-wing that overreached. National polls suggest the same thing is happening to conservatives in the House of Representatives. Wisconsin is not a right-wing state, and this is not a right-wing country. That’s the message of recall summer.
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 17, 2011
Last night, Democrats in Wisconsin fell short by one in their effort to regain control of the Wisconsin State Senate.
While there is no question that the drive to pick up seats via the recall elections, staged in decidedly Republican districts, was a difficult undertaking – and there is some reason for Democrats to celebrate having won two seats in these GOP areas- there is no spinning out of the truth of this election.
The loss was both hard and significant on a number of levels.
Had the election been influenced by a low voter turnout – something that typically bodes ill for Democrats – that would have put a different face on the story.
But the turnout was spectacular. And, based on the results, Republicans were every bit as energized as Democrats.
GOP supporters had the backs of their sitting Senators, coming to the polls in big numbers to deliver the message that they too are as engaged and energized in the battle taking place in Wisconsin as the progressives and that is precisely what should have those who oppose the conservative agenda – in Wisconsin and throughout the nation – shaking in their boots.
The GOP was not just sending the message that they too know how to show up at the polls. They had a deeper message to send, one that was addressed to the unions. It was a message that came through loud and clear.
We’re (the voters) just not that into you.
The unions poured some $20 million dollars in the Wisconsin effort. For their money, they improved their minority in the State Senate by two votes but failed to come away with the majority required to put the breaks on Governor Scott Walker’s agenda.
That’s a lot of cash to spend for the return achieved.
While the other side also poured serious cash into the state, organizations like Club For Growth can, at the least, come away from the battle knowing that their agenda has not been stymied and, for as long as Governor Walker sits in the state house, they remain free and unfettered in their efforts to move their mission forward while pushing the state of Wisconsin – and the country – backward.
Now, the Wisconsin Democrats are left to determine their plans for the future, particularly with respect to the proposed recall effort against Governor Scott Walker.
The good news is that last night’s battles were fought on enemy territory while a statewide recall will bring the Democratic faithful throughout the state into play.
The bad news is that we’ve now learned that those who support the Walker agenda – and we’d best acknowledge that there are far more of them than Badger State Democrats might have wanted to realize- will not be sitting idly by when it comes to supporting an agenda of wiping out collective bargaining rights, cutting education and healthcare to the bone and disenfranchising those who are more likely to cast their vote for Democrats.
I suspect that the Walker recall will go forward – but that won’t happen until next year.
In the meantime, the attention turns to the ballot measure in Ohio seeking to repeal the anti-collective bargaining law passed by Gov. John Kasich and the Ohio legislature. The initiative will appear on the statewide ballot on November 8th and will permit all voting Ohioans to weigh in on how they feel about the effort to end unions in America. A “yes” would be a vote to retain the law while a “no” will be a vote to repeal.
If I were a Democrat in Wisconsin, I’d plan on spending the next few months in Ohio working hard for the repeal effort. If ‘just say no’ fails in the Ohio election, the writing you see on the wall will be the formal announcement of the tragic death of the union movement in the United States of America.
By: Rick Ungar, The Policy Page, Forbes, August 11, 2011
State Rep. Robin Vos said he wants to “recall the recalls.”
The Rochester Republican and chairman of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee said Wednesday he is drafting an amendment to the state constitution to require those pushing to recall state officials to state their reasons for doing so.
“No longer should taxpayer dollars be wasted on unnecessary recall elections that were triggered by a vote that some special interest group didn’t like.” Vos said in a statement. “It undermines our democracy and wastes precious taxpayer dollars that are needed elsewhere.”
His comments came a day after Democrats won two seats in the state Senate, one shy of what they would have needed to take control of the chamber. Four other Republicans held onto their seats in a set of recall elections for state lawmakers unparalleled in the country’s history.
Vos said his proposed constitutional amendment would require those trying to recall a state official to state a reason they are doing so when they file paperwork with the state. Such a statement is already required for recalling local officials.
Vos said he wants the proposal to be the first piece of legislation passed this fall. If passed, it would need to be approved again by the Legislature in 2013 or 2014 and then by voters in a referendum.
By: Patrick Marley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 10, 2011