The indispensable Christian Schneider has pulled together some of the conflicting accounts of the Incident at our state Supreme Court. This suggests a few things.
1. It may well be that we are probably never going to know what really happened. As is often the case with shocking events that occur quickly, we have conflicting accounts. These are probably the result, not of deliberate falsification, but of confirmation bias. Where the opportunity to observe is limited by the rapidity and surprise of events, eye witnesses will often see what they want or expected to see. There seems to be little in the way of objective indicia of what happened, other than (perhaps) Justice Bradley's suggestion that she was not choked because the two were broken apart and her own choice not to file a police report. Apart from that, it may turn out that there is no way to distinguish one version of events from the other.
2. One unfortunate denouement is that, if the local authorities can't prosecute (and it seems highly unlikely that they can), then the matter will ultimately come back to the Court. How will that work? Do the participants and witnesses recuse themselves, placing the entire matter with Justice Crooks? Not a very appetizing prospect for him and placing the matter with a single member of the Court is probably not the best way to resolve something like this.
3. Sadly, this is not just about David Prosser. If, in fact, Justice Bradley charged Justice Prosser with her fists raised or went "nose to nose" with him, this also raises issues about judicial temperment and anger management. Of course, "a chokehold" would be a disproportionate response. I'd like to think that neither of them is guilty of actions that arise to the level of assault or disorderly conduct and that an ugly moment has been blown out of proportion. It's not what I would expect from either of them, but we'll see.
5. Nor is it just about David Prosser and Ann Walsh Bradley. This incident doesn't come from nowhere and it doesn't just come from the combative elections we have had since 2007. The origins extend past that and the solution will have to acknowledge this. The culture on the court needs to change. Strong differences of opinion are inevitable, but disputation ought to be kept between the white lines. When strong differences of opinion do arise, individuals ought to try and refrain from ridiculing and questioning the impartiality of their colleagues. Differences on matters of law should not be needlessly magnified into existential confrontations.
The voices of dissenters should not be ignored, but individuals should refrain from using manipulating the court's processes and customs to frustrate the will of the majority. Individuals ougnt to avoid fighting battles against their colleagues in the press. Administrative matters should not be a place for continuing ideological battles.
I don't presume to lay the blame for this at anyone's feet or with any wing of the Court nor do I intend any veiled criticism. I have no interest in arguing about who has or has not been "guilty" of contrubuting to the present state of affairs. I just hope for better. If responsibility for the problem is diffuse, then perhaps commitment to improvement can be broad.