I was never convinced that the state ethics board had a very great case against ethically challenged Annette Ziegler: The range of breaches they are charged with punishing is too narrow to cover the specific difficulty following the rules that Ziegler suffered from.
But don't you think it's just slightly bad form for Ziegler leverage her new position to get the ethics board off her back?
Incoming state Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler asked her soon-to-be colleagues today to rule that the state Ethics Board has no jurisdiction to levy sanctions against her for violating the state ethics code. [. . .] Ziegler's request draws the other justices even further into the issue, amplifying what was already an awkward situation.I mean, how hard is it to mount a vigorous defense of yourself and, if necessary, appeal? I'm not entirely certain what she thinks she'll be hiding from, given that the board with the strong case--the Wisconsin Judicial Commission--is on the trail. I've written before how Ziegler quite clearly (and she herself has never denied it, though campaign manager Mark Graul was out there spinning and lying about what she did and did not do in her courtroom) violated both the spirit and the letter of the state's code of judicial conduct, including precedent set by this same Judicial Commission. She has everything to fear from that investigation, and I am hopeful that she will finally own up to her poor ethics.
In other, related news, the state senate is on the verge of proving the old adage that if there's a rule in place, no matter how obvious or stupid it may seem, it's because someone did what the rule prevents. I'm not saying this rule is stupid; rather, it seems so self-apparent Ziegler ought to apologize to the state for making it necessary:
A week after regulators put state Supreme Court Justice-elect Annette Ziegler under scrutiny for not revealing alleged conflicts of interest, Democrats who control the state Senate announced they are pushing a bill requiring court clerks to advise people involved in civil suits of what judges must disclose.Someone asked me at Drinking Liberally the other night how it could be possible that Annette Ziegler won her election with such a wide margin when, for those of us paying attention, there is such a clear pile of evidence of her ethical wantonness. And the answer, as I will remind you all Saturday at the Blog Summit (you've registered, right?), is that blogs don't vote.
Under the bill--which has not yet been introduced--circuit court clerks would have to give plaintiffs and defendants written notice that the presiding judge must tell them of potential conflicts of interest and withdraw from the case, unless the parties agree to let the judge stay on. The clerks would also have to tell them they could request the judge's statement of economic interest, Sen. Pat Kreitkow (D-Chippewa Falls) said at a press conference this morning.
Additionally, the people who voted for her have been trained over the last couple of decades to believe that they are in a culture war, and the courts are the front lines. For them, it was more important to get a judge like Ziegler elected to the court, even if they have to settle for Ziegler herself.
Still, I hope that when future judges get caught violating the law about informing parties before them about conflicts, we run them out of town for violating "Annette's Law." That seems a fitting legacy.