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Wisconsin law library to be named after Justice Prosser

July 15, 2016

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — When Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser retires from the court at the end of July, he’ll leave behind a legacy of 18 years on the court, heated exchanges with liberal-leaning justices and, now, a library.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack announced Friday that the State Law Library will be named after Prosser.

“Few people have made as significant a contribution to serving the people of Wisconsin as Justice Prosser,” Roggensack said in a news release. “His dedication to Wisconsin has been his life’s work.”

Prosser, 73, plans to retire July 31. He served in the state Assembly from 1979 through 1996 as a Republican and was appointed to the high court in 1998 by former Gov. Tommy Thompson. He won an election to a 10-year term in 2001 and was re-elected in 2011.

A formal naming ceremony for the library, which is located in the Risser Justice Center in downtown Madison, is being planned for September.

Prosser has been widely regarded as part of the officially nonpartisan court’s conservative-leaning majority and has been involved in heated exchanges with liberal-leaning justices Shirley Abrahamson and Ann Walsh Bradley in recent years.

Emails emerged in 2011 showing Prosser used an expletive to describe Abrahamson in 2010 and threatened to “destroy” her as the justices debated whether to remove conservative-leaning Justice Mike Gableman from a criminal case.

In 2011, Prosser placed his hands around Bradley’s throat during an argument over an opinion upholding Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s law curbing collective bargaining rights for public workers. Prosser contended he was acting in self-defense as Bradley charged toward him and that he didn’t apply any pressure. The state Judicial Commission recommended the justices find him guilty of ethics violations, but Bradley and four other justices recused themselves, leaving the court without a quorum to continue.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, called the announcement startling.

“It’s startling and certainly imprudent that the Supreme Court would move so quickly to honor someone who has yet to even retire, especially given the tumultuous period of this court, combined with the fact that Justice Prosser has been at the center of the storm.”

Walker is in the process of selecting an appointee to replace Prosser when he steps down. He named three finalists for the seat in June, including 2nd District Appeals Court Judge Mark Gundrum, 3rd District Appeals Court Judge Thomas Hruz and attorney Dan Kelly.

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