Sunday, August 14, 2011

Justice Prosser doesn't worry about conflicts of interest

Embattled justice plans to sit on case involving law firm he paid $75,000 to for recount

The recount for the State Supreme Court election earlier this year produced more than just a narrow win for incumbent Justice David Prosser -- it also produced hundreds of thousands of dollars in fundraising for the sitting justice.

Prosser, who raised more than $272,000 during this time beyond the actual election, saw most of it coming from out-of-state interests, "including three $50,000 donations and two $25,000 donations." Assistant Attorney General Kloppenburg, who opposed Prosser in the election, also raised vast sums of money, the largest of which was $10,000 from her mother-in-law; all other donations were under $2,500.

Prosser's donations are more concerning for two reasons: first, he ended up winning, so the effect of his donations means more than they do for Kloppenburg, who will not be serving on the Court. Second, his donations could mean a potential conflict of interest, creating a situation where his decision-making on the Court could be influenced by his monetary interests.

Take, for instance, the Troupis Law office, which received $75,000 from Prosser to help assist in the recount. Prosser and the rest of the Court are set to rule on a case involving the law office, and Prosser intends to sit in on the case despite clear biases.
Prosser has previously said he believes he can remain impartial when the case comes before the court Sept. 6. However, experts in legal ethics say it would be inappropriate for Prosser not to recuse himself from the case.

Prosser's campaign director, Brian Nemoir, said the justice planned to stay on the case and could remain impartial.


But legal ethicists say Prosser shouldn't sit on the case because of state ethics rules prohibiting judges from sitting on cases where a reasonable person would question their ability to remain impartial.

Prosser "has put his trust and confidence in this lawyer in retaining him," said Monroe Freedman, a professor at Hofstra Law School in New York. "The fact that the judge has had this kind of extremely close relationship with this lawyer...might well cause a reasonable person to question the judge's ability to be impartial."
Clearly, besides having a temper problem, David Prosser has a problem dealing with ethics as well. Conflicts of interest matter not to Justice Prosser, who himself is a former Republican Speaker of the Assembly.


  1. Par for the course for a republican.

  2. Note to Blogger: When using the plural "experts", in you piece, do please, include more than one citation. Also, you have included the name of a law firm and your cited expert refers to an individual lawyer. The linkage is missing.

  3. And, if Kloppenburg would have won there would be no questions about donations either. There are constantly conflicts of issues amongst the Supreme Court Justices. However, only when they involve conservative Justices are they boldly brought to the liberal rags in Madison.

  4. This is not just about money, but his ability to remain impartial. How could he possibly not recuse himself in this case! That is what this is about....honesty, integrity and holding laws of the State of Wisconsin to the highest. Whether you are a Republican or Democrat you can't possibly think this man is right in this case!

  5. The reference to "experts" in my post was a quote from the article that is linked within my post. It was not me using the word, but rather the article to which I was referencing. I do take the blame for not making that reference clearer, so I do apologize for that.

    As far as Kloppenburg goes, no doubt she would be receiving the same scrutiny that Prosser is now receiving had she won. But she didn't win; and as such, it makes no sense to be critical of her contributions seeing as they will have no effect on the Supreme Court. Her contributors, however, were largely individuals from within the state, whereas Prosser's were large dollar amount contributions from elsewhere. Had Kloppenburg won, the biggest concern as far as her conflict of interest would be her mother-in-law. The same cannot be said of Prosser.

    The solution to all of this, of course, is the public financing of Supreme Court elections.