Madison— Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser abruptly stepped down from a case earlier this year after a state lawyer said Prosser had apparently contacted a state lab asking questions related to a case before the state’s high court.
His withdrawal leaves six justices on the case, raising the possibility of a 3-3 split that would leave unresolved an issue that has repeatedly cropped up in drunken driving cases.
Wisconsin’s ethics code for judges says that in general judges cannot engage in discussions outside the courtroom with witnesses. They are to make their decisions based on the facts presented to them, rather than ones they gather on their own.
Prosser appears to have sought answers directly from the state Laboratory of Hygiene that analyzed the blood sample in the drunken driving case before the Supreme Court. The same day the contact became public, Prosser notified the court he was withdrawing from the case.