Ozanne: 'How we do our jobs is just as important as what we do in our jobs.'
Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne has announced (PDF) that he will request the county's chief judge to appoint a special prosecutor to examine the investigation into the alleged physical altercation that took place earlier this summer at the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley accused Justice David Prosser of placing his hands around her neck in a chokehold during an argument that occurred in her office on June 13. Prosser denied the allegations, and an alternate story was offered -- that Bradley approached Prosser with her fists raised, and his hands touched her neck in an effort to block her. The firestorm that followed included calls from progressive groups and elected officials for Prosser to step down for the duration of the investigation.
In this latest development, Ozanne cited the importance of process and appearance. The confrontation between Bradley and Prosser occurred the day before the court released its 4-3 decision to uphold Gov. Scott Walker's legislation that stripped most public employees of their collective bargaining rights. Ozanne, a Democrat, was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that sought to invalidate the legislation, claiming the state's open meetings law was violated when a legislative committee passed the bill to the state Senate in March.
Ozanne said in a statement (PDF) that his request comes not because he feels his office would be unfair in its decision, but to ensure that any decision can be free from accusations of impartiality.
"How we do our jobs is just as important as what we do in our jobs," Ozanne said in the statement. "The people of this state deserve to feel confident in the rule of law and the exercise of discretion by their constitutional officers."
The special prosecutor would "make any determinations necessary" in the matter so the incident could be "reviewed on the merits with no appearance of political motivation for any decisions or outcome."
The case has a history of being passed around. The Capitol Police, who were the original investigators, transferred the case to the Dane County Sheriff's office early in the investigation. However, in response to complaints from conservative activists, Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney -- who was elected as a Democrat and endorsed JoAnn Kloppenburg, Prosser's opponent in the spring Supreme Court election -- turned the case over to subordinates in order to remove himself from the matter.