Confidence in the court 'never been lower' - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Confidence in the court 'never been lower'

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Governor Scott Walker says infighting on the Supreme Court is a serious matter that must be resolved.

Governor Walker says regardless of your political beliefs, there's got to be confidence the people on the court can rationally discuss and debate. But, two non-partisan watch-dog groups say confidence in the court was down long before this incident.

Mike McCabe, Executive Director Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, says, "The Supreme Court was already on thin ice and for the problems within the court to escalate to the point of physical violence is just devastating to the court."

There's a long history of incivility on the high court going back to 1999 when Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson was up for re-election. A number of fellow justices opposed her as a candidate and endorsed her opponent.

Then again in 2007 the public's confidence in the court was shaken in the aftermath of Justice Annette Ziegler's campaign and again in 2008 during Justice Michael Gableman's campaign. Both elections were costly and negative.

Then in March of this year, emails surfaced revealing justice David Prosser had used a vulgar word in a 2010 meeting with Chief Justice Abrahamson.

But the latest incident, allegations that Justice Prosser tried to choke Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, has many people around the state shaking their heads.

McCabe says, "What we're dealing with is something that has not been experienced anytime in our lifetime. We've never seen this kind of animosity bubble to the surface."

Jay Heck, Executive Director of Common Cause Wisconsin adds, "People's confidence in the Wisconsin Supreme Court has never been lower."

Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause Wisconsin believes restoring public confidence in the court will only happen if the justices openly discuss their internal problems.

Heck, "This is something that can't be swept under the rug, I don't think this is something they can just say well that happened it's behind us because public confidence in the court has been shaken."

Mike McCabe, executive director of Wisconsin Democracy Campaign says that seems unlikely. Instead he says if the allegations are true, Justice Prosser must resign calling the incident devastating to the court.

McCabe says, "If Justice Prosser did in fact put his hands on Justice Bradley, that is an offense that is so far over the line that he has to go."

If Justice Prosser is found responsible for serious improper misconduct he could potentially be removed from office through impeachment or a recall election.

To impeach a sitting justice, the Republican controlled legislature would need a majority vote.

As for a recall, he would not be eligible for a year, since he was just re-elected in April of 2011.

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