Several Wisconsin women's rights organizations will lead a rally at the Capitol on Tuesday to call for state Supreme Court Justice David Prosser to step aside pending results of an investigation into his behavior.
The rally, which will be held at the State Street entrance of the building at noon, comes in the wake of allegations that, during an altercation in Justice Ann Walsh Bradley's office, Prosser placed his hands in a chokehold around her neck. Women's rights groups, lawmakers and other public figures are asking Prosser to take a leave while the incident is investigated and, if he is found to be in the wrong, they will ask for his resignation.
"We're calling on Justice Prosser to really do the same thing we would expect of ... anybody in any workplace," says Lisa Subeck, City of Madison alder and executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin.
Subeck says in most workplaces, a supervisor would place someone accused of workplace violence on administrative leave during an investigation, adding that the alleged assailant would not be allowed to work side by side with the victim. While there is no one who can do this for Prosser, the groups behind the effort are asking him to make the decision on his own.
The purpose of the rally is to "put the pressure on Justice Prosser and say, 'Hey, Wisconsinites are watching, and we want to see you do the right thing,'" Subeck says.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (PDF), in 2009, workplace violence accounted for 24 percent of all nonfatal violence against employed people age 16 or older. Subeck says workplace violence is a "significant threat."
"Every woman has the right to feel safe in the workplace," Subeck says. "No woman should have to go to work with a persistent threat in place."
The issue extends beyond women's rights, and even beyond workplace violence, Subeck says, adding that while this particular call began with a group of women's organizations, the rally will expand beyond that. She says she has heard from people and groups across the country who think Prosser should step aside pending results of the investigation.
Subeck says Prosser's actions raise doubt in the minds of Wisconsinites regarding the integrity of the state Supreme Court. She points out that in on Feb. 10, 2010, Prosser called Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson a "bitch" and threatened to "destroy" her. Subeck believes Prosser's behavior with Bradley is not an isolated incident.
"You certainly have to think about the kind of judgment that individual is using when deciding cases in the highest course of the state," Subeck says.
Speakers at the rally include Annie Laurie Gaylor, from the Women's Medical Fund; Anthony Prince, from the Madison chapter of the National Lawyers Guild; Melissa Sargent, Dane County Board Supervisor, Rabbi Bonnie Margulis, of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and Samantha Leonard, a third-year law student.
Scot Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, will also speak. The liberal advocacy group has collected more than 10,000 petition signatures calling for Prosser's resignation.
More information about the rally can be found on its Facebook event page.