A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how Judge Annette Ziegler, the non-partisan Repulican candidate for state supreme court, suffers from a big fat conflict of interest. I wrote:
Since 2002, Judge Ziegler has presided over nearly four dozen cases involving [the West Bend Savings Bank, from whom her husband draws a paycheck]. An intrepid correspondent of mine actually took a tour around the Washington County Courthouse and checked the casefiles on about a dozen of the most recent cases, and there was no evidence of notice given to the defendants in those cases of the possible conflict of interest. This, of course, leads to speculation that the three-dozen prior cases were also filed away without any mention of such notice.The comments to that post were rife with know-it-alls telling me that it was No Big Deal. (I was even accused of perpetuating a smear!) Despite that, twixt then and now, the charge picked up steam, with the Milwaukee Labor Council and One Wisconsin Now piling on. Still, those of us who raised concerns were told we were wrong about Ziegler.
Enter the Madison's conservative newspaper, today:
Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Annette Ziegler failed to disclose a conflict of interest in at least four cases over which she presided as a circuit judge in the past year, interviews and court documents indicate.Read the article; we're not just talking about small claims petty business here. In at least one of the cases, the judgment was over $10,000. This was not, as some of my commenters tried to reassure me, "foreclosures and loan defaults [that] often proceed by default." The defendant in that $10k case is now mighty steamed that at no point in the five months of appearances in her courtroom did Ziegler say, "Oh, by the way, I may have an interest in how this turns out." I don't know what that guy's options for appeal may be, but I hope he makes one.
Failing to disclose a conflict would put a judge in violation of rules enforced by the high court.
All four cases in 2006 involved people sued by West Bend Savings Bank, where Ziegler's husband, J.J. Ziegler, is a paid member of the board of directors.
The defendants said the Washington County Circuit judge did not withdraw from the cases--nor did she disclose her conflict--as required by Supreme Court rules governing the conduct of judges in Wisconsin. [. . .] James Alexander, executive director of the Wisconsin Judicial Commission, said the rules governing judges' conflicts of interest are designed to ensure the credibility of the judiciary.
"An impartial judge is a cornerstone of the judicial system," Alexander said. "It's protecting not only the impartiality of the judicial system, but also the appearance of impartiality."
So what does this mean? Besides my being right, of course. It really calls into question the ethics of Annette Ziegler. Mark Graul, her campaign manager, refused to let her speak to the Wisconsin State Journal reporter doing the story. Graul's no dummy; there's probably a reason why the candidate can't speak about this.
Say what you want about (folkbum-endorsed) Linda Clifford's philosophy--and, believe me, people are--but no one has yet found any examples of Clifford engaging in the kind of iffy ethical practices that we see Judge Ziegler clearly exhibiting here. Remember this on April 3.