David T. Prosser

From Ballotpedia
(Redirected from David Prosser)
Jump to: navigation, search
David T. Prosser
Placeholder image.png
Do you have a photo that could go here? Submit it for this profile by emailing us!
Court Information:
Wisconsin Supreme Court
Title:   Justice
Salary:  $146,000
Appointed by:   Gov. Tommy Thompson
Active:   1998-2021
Past post:   Wisconsin Tax Appeals Commission
Past term:   1996-1998
Personal History
Party:   Republican
Undergraduate:   DePauw University, 1965
Law School:   University of Wisconsin Law School, 1968
Candidate 2011:
Candidate for:  Supreme Court
State:  Wisconsin
Election information 2011:
Incumbent:  Yes
Primary date:  February 15, 2011
Primary vote:  54.7%ApprovedA
Election date:  April 5, 2011
Election vote:  50.192%ApprovedA

David T. Prosser, Jr. is a justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. He was appointed by Republican Governor Tommy Thompson in 1998, and subsequently elected to a 10-year term in 2001. His term expires on July 31, 2021.[1]



See also: Wisconsin judicial elections, 2011

Prosser ran for re-election to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2011. He received 54.7 percent of the vote in the primary election on February 15. He then defeated JoAnne Kloppenburg in the general election on April 5, 2011.[2]

Prosser, explaining why he ran for re-election, stated:

I have served on the court for more than 12 years, I enjoy the work, I think I'm good at the work and I would like to continue that work at a difficult time on the court. Part of the issues facing the court involve basically funding that will require good relations with the governor and the Legislature. I think I can bring some unique experience to helping the court as it tries to get funding.[3][4]

Results timeline

  • April 6, 2011: Kloppenburg declared victory. Her campaign issued the following statement:
We owe Justice Prosser our gratitude for his more than 30 years of public service. Wisconsin voters have spoken and I am grateful for, and humbled by, their confidence and trust. I will be independent and impartial and I will decide cases based on the facts and the law. As I have traveled the State, people tell me they believe partisan politics do not belong in our Courts. I look forward to bringing new blood to the Supreme Court and focusing my energy on the important work Wisconsin residents elect Supreme Court justices to do.[5][4]

—JoAnne Kloppenburg campaign, 2011

  • April 7, 2011: Early in the day, Kloppenburg was ahead by 311 votes, with five precincts still outstanding. Her lead was only .02 percent of the total vote.[6] As votes continued to be collected, her lead lessened to 204 votes.[7]

Later, Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus revealed that, due to human error, she had failed to include 14,315 votes from the city of Brookfield in her unofficial vote tally. With those and some other smaller errors in unofficial vote reports, Prosser gained a 7,582 lead.[8]

  • April 11, 2011: The Democratic canvasser who had worked the Waukesha County ballot canvas was quoted as saying, "We went over everything and made sure all the numbers jibed up and they did. Those numbers jibed up, and we're satisfied they're correct."[8][9] These revelations seem to cast doubt on the notion that it was "human error" that led to the recovery of 14,315 votes from the city of Brookfield. [10][11]
To learn more about the recount process in Wisconsin, read: The Morning After: If the results are close, what happens next in Wisconsin?
  • April 15, 2011: The statewide vote canvass was completed. It showed Prosser as the race's victor, with 7,316 votes over Kloppenburg.[12]

The Prosser campaign declared victory with the following statement:

Today, the will of the electorate is clear with the last canvas now completed and Justice David Prosser re-elected to another 10 year term to the Supreme Court. Justice Prosser extends his appreciation and respect to Joanne Kloppenburg and her spirited campaign. With certified results in‐hand, Justice Prosser hopes that a shared respect for the judiciary allows the campaign to move to a positive conclusion. Justice Prosser looks forward to thanking the voters of Wisconsin and is expected make a public address in the near‐future.[13][4]

—Justice Prosser campaign, 2011

  • April 20, 2011: Kloppenburg requested a recount of the votes, citing "widespread anomalies".[14] The state was required to pay for the costs associated with the recount, since the margin between the two candidates was less than half of a percent.[15]
  • May 20, 2011: A recount concluded that Prosser defeated Kloppenburg by 7,006 votes.[16]

Campaign statements

Public financing

Prosser, along with challengers Joel Winnig and JoAnne Kloppenburg, received public financing for their 2011 election campaigns under a Wisconsin law that had been recently enacted. The fourth primary candidate, Marla J. Stephens, declined to seek public financing.[17]

Allegations of partisanship

See also: Nonpartisan election of judges

Although judicial elections in Wisconsin are nonpartisan, both Prosser and opponent Kloppenburg accused the other of political leanings. Prosser suggested, "There are some people who support my opponent who want the court involved in legislative reapportionment."[18] Kloppenburg stated, "Justice Prosser has sent a clear message that he will favor the agenda of Gov. Walker and the Republican Legislature. I will apply the law to the facts of the cases before me and decide them without prejudice."[18] Prosser contended that he was "not a rubber stamp for the governor."[19]


The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel endorsed Prosser for the primary election, and the Wausau Daily Herald endorsed both Prosser and Kloppenburg for the primary.[20][21]

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also endorsed Prosser for the general election.[22]

Sarah Palin said on her Twitter account: "Wisconsin, please remember to vote for Justice Prosser on April 5." [23]

Business lobbying organization Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce indicated that they raised money for ads supporting Prosser in the general election.[24]

An ad paid for by Wisconsin Club for Growth promoting Prosser aired on television prior to the primary vote.[25]

See also: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Ad won't provide extra money for court candidates," February 8, 2011


Prosser received his B.A. from DePauw University in 1965 and his J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1968.[26]


After graduating from law school, Prosser worked for the federal government in Washington D.C. He served as an attorney and adviser in the Office of Criminal Justice, and later as administrative assistant to U.S. Representative Harold Froehlich. Returning to Wisconsin, Prosser became the district attorney for Outagamie County. In 1979, he was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly, where he served as a representative for 18 years. Next, Prosser was appointed to the Wisconsin Tax Appeals Commission. He was in this position when he was appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1998.[1]

Awards and associations

  • Member, James E. Doyle American Inns of Court
  • Member, Friends of the Fox
  • Member, James Watrous Gallery Advisory Committee[1]

Notable cases

Justice recuses himself from DUI case

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser voluntarily recused himself from a case before the high court. Allegedly, Prosser contacted a lab that conducted tests on specimens in a drunk driving case and asked questions specifically related to the case. Judges are barred by a judicial code of conduct from seeking out evidence on their own; they must make decisions based upon the evidence presented at trial. In the case of appellate judges, they are bound to review only the record, which includes evidence presented at pre-trial evidentiary hearings or trial.

The case is important because it has the possibility of settling the question of when analysts must testify in DUI cases. With Prosser out, there are only six justices left to hear the case, meaning the decision could be a tie. The state's intermediate appellate court affirmed the underlying conviction, but said that this particular question arises often enough that the supreme court should settle the matter.

It is likely that Justice Prosser was not behaving shady. According to Maurer School of Law Professor Charles Geyh,

Well-intentioned, justice-seeking judges sometimes let their curiosity get the best of them and initiate investigations on their own, even though they should know better — meaning that the conduct is not necessarily nefarious.[4]

—Charles Geyh, Law professor[27]

Prosser recused himself from the case on February 27, 2015.


Authored opinions

  • Green v. Wisconsin Elections Board, concurred.[28]

Political ideology

See also: Political ideology of State Supreme Court Justices

In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan ideology of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 are more liberal. Prosser received a Campaign finance score (CFscore) of 0.77, indicating a conservative ideological leaning. This is more conservative than the average CF score of 0.42 that justices received in Wisconsin. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice, but an academic gauge of various factors.[29]

In the news

Investigation over altercation at court (2011)

In June 2011, unnamed sources alleged that a physical altercation occurred between Prosser and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley on June 13, 2011. On June 25, Justice Bradley stated:

The facts are that I was demanding that he get out of my office and he put his hands around my neck in anger in a chokehold.[30][31][4]

Prossser responded:

Once there's a proper review of the matter and the facts surrounding it are made clear, the anonymous claim made to the media will be proven false. Until then I will refrain from further public comment."[30][4]

The incident was investigated by the Dane County Sheriff's Office and the Wisconsin Judicial Commission.[32] No charges were brought against either party.[33]

Complaint filed

In March 2012, the Wisconsin Judicial Commission recommended that Prosser be disciplined accordingly for his alleged actions in June 2011 (see story above). In its investigation, the commission found that Prosser violated the Code of Judicial Conduct.

To read the full complaint, visit: Wisconsin Courts, "Case No. 12AP5665. In the Matter of Judicial Disciplinary Proceedings Against the Honorable David T. Prosser, Jr.," March 16, 2012

For his part, Justice Prosser says that the charges were "partisan, unreasonable and largely untrue."[34]

Health issue (2011)

In early December 2011, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson announced that Prosser would not hear any oral arguments in December. He was said to be taking a month off to recover from a "serious" heath issue, though one that was "not life-threatening."[35]

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Wisconsin Court System, "Justice David T. Prosser"
  2. The Washington Examiner, "Unofficial results for Wis. Supreme Court Primary," February 15, 2011
  3. Post Crescent, "Four vie for seat on Wisconsin Supreme Court," February 6, 2011
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  5. Kloppenburg Press Release, "JoAnne Kloppenburg Elected to Wisconsin Supreme Court," April 6, 2011
  6. Bloomberg Business Week, "Split over union law reaches Wis. supreme court race," April 7, 2011
  7. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:All Politics Blog, "Kloppenburg declares victory," April 6, 2011
  8. 8.0 8.1 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Corrected Brookfield tally puts Prosser ahead after 7,500-vote gain," April 7, 2011
  9. Waukesha County Democratic Party, "Statement & Account of Ramona Kitzinger," April 11, 2011
  10. Wall Street Journal, "More Controversy Clouds Wisconsin Supreme Court Race," April 11, 2011
  11. Bloomberg Business Week, "Voting Fiasco Shows Value of Hitting ‘Save’: Margaret Carlson," April 12, 2011
  12. Wall Street Journal, "Incumbent Wins Wisconsin Supreme Court Race," April 15, 2011
  13. Prosser Campaign, "Statement Regarding his Election Victory," April 15, 2011
  14. Associated Press, "Wis. court challenger will seek statewide recount," April 20, 2011
  15. Associated Press, "Canvass shows conservative wins Wis. court race," April 15, 2011
  16. The New York Times, "Wisconsin: Recount Favors Conservative Justice," May 20, 2011
  17. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Three Supreme Court candidates will get public funding," January 13, 2011
  18. 18.0 18.1 Waukesha Patch, "Supreme Court Candidates Get Political in Waukesha Forum," March 10, 2011
  19. Beloit Daily News, "David Prosser aims for re-election," March 18, 2011
  20. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "We back Prosser," February 11, 2011
  21. Wausau Daily Herald, "IN THE PRIMARY ELECTIONS We endorse ...," February 7, 2011
  22. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Prosser a vote for independence," April 2, 2011
  23. Associated Press, "Palin Endorses Prosser for Supreme Court," April 1, 2011
  24. Think Progress, "Justice-For-Sale Lobbyists Raising ‘Unlimited and Undisclosed’ Donations To Buy Supreme Court Seat," March 25, 2011
  25. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Supreme Court candidate who refused public support sees campaign fund lag," February 7, 2011
  26. Project Vote Smart, "Justice David T. Prosser (WI)"
  27. Channel 3000, "State high court judge may have broken rule by quizzing lab," April 4, 2015
  28. Wisconsin Court System, "Green v. Wisconsin Elections Board"
  29. Stanford University, "State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns," October 31, 2012
  30. 30.0 30.1 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Justices' feud gets physical," June 25, 2011
  31. New York Times, "Wisconsin Judge Said to Have Attacked Colleague," June 25, 2011
  32. PostCrescent.com, "Supreme Court flap between Justice Ann Walsh Bradley and Justice David Prosser leads to investigation," June 28, 2011
  33. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Special prosecutor: No charges for Prosser, Bradley in fracas," August 25, 2011
  34. ABAJournal, "Ethics Sanction Requested for Wisconsin Justice over B-Word, Neck-Touching Incidents," March 19, 2012
  35. Pierce County Herald, "Friday State News Briefs: Justice Prosser will not hear cases due to poor health," December 2, 2011
WisconsinWisconsin Supreme CourtWisconsin Court of AppealsWisconsin Circuit CourtsWisconsin Municipal CourtsUnited States District Court for the Eastern District of WisconsinUnited States District Court for the Western District of WisconsinUnited States bankruptcy court, Eastern District of WisconsinUnited States bankruptcy court, Western District of WisconsinUnited States Court of Appeals for the Seventh CircuitWisconsin countiesWisconsin judicial newsWisconsin judicial electionsJudicial selection in WisconsinWisconsinTemplate.jpg