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    Does Dane County Sheriff have conflict in Prosser-Bradley Investigation?

    Does Dane County Sheriff have conflict in Prosser-Bradley Investigation?

    As mentioned yesterday, Dane County Sheriff David Mahoney is leading an investigation into allegations that Justice David Prosser put a “chokehold” on Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, and counter-allegations that Bradley initiated physical contact.

    One of the witnesses was Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, who has a long history of verbal conflict with Prosser. 

    Sheriff Mahoney was a campaign supporter of Abrahamson.  According to Fairly Conservative, a Wisconsin blog, Sheriff Mahoney appeared in a campaign advertisement for her (in the initial still screen shot, and at the 0:18 mark):

    Another blog confirmed in 2009 that it was Sheriff Mahoney in the campaign ad, as does someone familiar with Wisconsin politics. (Yes, just before Sheriff Mahoney in the video is Judge Maryann Sumi.)

    In such a highly politicized case, does it make sense for Sheriff Mahoney to be leading the investigation, considering that Abrahamson is one of the witnesses?

    Even assuming (which I do) that the Sheriff and his staff will do a completely professional investigation, doesn’t the Sheriff’s political connection to Abrahamson raise an appearance of bias problem? Shouldn’t the investigator be someone with no political connection to any of the Justices? 

    I e-mailed Shefiff Mahoney last night asking for comment both to confirm his appearance in the video and as to any possible conflict.  I have not heard back, but will update this post if he responds.

    (This issue was brought to my attention by commenter Dad29, and by Steve Eggleston)

    Update:  Sheriff Mahoney has more political conflicts.  Per JSOnline, he endorsed Prosser’s opponent, JoAnne Kloppenburg and shares the same campaign manager as Kloppenburg.

    Update No. 2. Thanks to a reader in Wisconsin for forwarding me this link from The Wisconsin Reporter of a statement issued by Sheriff Mahoney that he will play no personal role in the investigation.


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    The County Sheriff is the top LEO in a county. The department’s jurisdiction includes every squaree inch of that county. It does not matter if a town has a police force, the Sheriff and deputies can (although they usually don’t) take over any investigation in that county.

    Now in most counties with a population big enough, the Sheriff works the politics, the Chief Deputy controls the department. So the Sheriff works with the County Commissioners, works on the budget and works with the Chief’s of Police in the towns, the State LEOs and any Feds that are either stationed in or passing through the county. Oh, and the media.

    Meanwhile, the Chief Dep is a career LEO. Usually fairly apolitical, although certainly aware of the political forces.

    I must say that I am shocked at what the LEOs up there were doing during the “occupation” of the Capitol. When I took the oath, some forty years ago, I swore to uphold the law and protect the citizens. Had I acted like those clowns up there I would have been called into the Chief Dep’s Office and then when I left I’d be without my badge and ID and walking funny because of where my privately owned gun and Sam Browne belt had been shoved.

    dad29 | June 28, 2011 at 4:23 pm:

    Again, setting aside the questions regarding the serious conflicts of interest the sheriff has for the moment, my question is, how is it possible that a county sheriff has the jurisdiction to conduct an investigation of a matter involving sitting members of the Supreme Court?

    Why would this not be much more appropriately handled by the investigators with statewide jurisdictional authority from the Attorney General’s Office? Would the county sheriff, for example, be involved in an investigation of a criminal or quasi-criminal matter involving a state cabinet official?

    Hi Trochilus

    Quote – How is it possible that a county sheriff could have the authority to conduct a law enforcement investigation involving sitting members of the State’s Supreme Court? – End Quote.

    As others have mentioned here, Jurisdiction is location specific. A Sheriff has the authority to undertake investigation into ANY criminal activity that occurs within in that specific geographical area. Now he may have a CONCURRENT jurisdiction with the Judicial Review Board AND with the Statewide agency such as the Attorney General’s Office, but that does not lessen the Sheriff’s jurisdiction to complete his own investigation. No other agency displaces him unless the jurisdiction is specifically removed from him by legislation passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor (and I don’t know of any that does so in Wisconsin).

    It’s a throwback to Middle English hierarchy where the Shire reeve was the county’s chief peace officer, custodian of the jail, executor of civil and criminal process and carrier out of Judicial mandate on behalf of the King. This is basically 10th century English Law, where the Sheriff were the head-honcho, and no Law Enforcement Office has displaced that office since.

    And I get the conflict of interest. I REALLY do. But if there are concurrent other investigations going on which reach RADICALLY different results, those can be held up if the Sheriff get’s stupid and tries to pull something political with charging Prosser. That’s the point of the “open” records demand. If you can see that the investigators found that Prosser was the victim, and yet he’s being charged, that makes for great theater when the Sheriff comes back up for reelection, and my guess is that the Sheriff isn’t willing to give up his job to try to save Bradley or hurt Prosser now that Prosser’s been reelected, regardless of Mahoney’s previous or current political leanings. Think of it this way: it’s ALL about bringing the bias into the light. You do that, and the cockroaches will scurry to get out of the light lest they be squashed by the public foot in disgust.

    Chuck’s right.

    Speculation here is that CJ Shirley (the Screech) will try to sweep this under the rug no matter WHAT the investigation reveals. There will be posed holy pictures, kiss/make up BS, and … get the idea.

    Reason? The investigation will reveal that, indeed, Bradley ASSAULTED Prosser and that his move was pure self-defense.

    That means that Bradley, the CJ’s Mini-Me, will be forced to resign after the criminal assault trial jury finds her guilty–if not because she was shamed out of the office.

    So, no matter the inclinations of the Sheriff, this will go away.

    OR (and this is still a very strong possibility) the Legislature will impeach Bradley based on the Sheriff’s report, no matter whether it’s referred for prosecution or not.

    I understand the history, and in a number of states (e.g., here in NJ) things have changed with respect to the authority of a county sheriff.

    No county sheriff in NJ, including the Mercer county Sheriff (where the State capitol in Trenton is located) would ever attempt to do anything like assert investigatory jurisdiction in a case arising within the chambers of the Supreme Court.

    I didn’t know what the situation was in WI, which was why I asked. But there is something odd about the decision on the part of Tubbs to defer to Mahoney after he (Tubbs) had met with the members of the Court.

    What just seems odd to me was to bring in a county-level politico to conduct an “investigation.”

    The CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT governs the conduct of judges and justices in Wisconsin, and there are a few general requirements as follows:

    SCR 60.03 A judge shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of the judge’s activities.
    . . .

    SCR 60.04(3)(a)
    (a) A judge who receives information indicating a substantial likelihood that another judge has committed a violation of this chapter should take appropriate action. A judge having personal knowledge that another judge has committed a violation of this chapter that raises a substantial question as to the other judge’s fitness for office shall inform the appropriate authority.

    But it does not provide more detail as to what “appropriate authority” might mean in the context of enlisting any law enforcement investigative authority, as by definition it means only the following in the Code:

    SCR 60.01(1)
    (1) “Appropriate authority” means the chief judge of an offending judge’s district, the director of state courts, the judicial commission, and the office of lawyer regulation.

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