January 15, 2008
Without Moral Culpability
The web page of the Wisconsin Supreme Court has posted the findings of fact, conclusions of law and recommendations of a Judicial Conduct Panel in the matter of recently-installed Supreme Court Justice Ziegler. The panel recommends a reprimand for conduct committed as a circuit court judge involving failure to recuse herself in 11 cases involving a bank for which her husband served as a paid member of the board of directors. He had no financial interest in the bank. However, the justice and her husband "had executed a mortgage on their residence in favor of the Bank for $2,000,000 in commercial loans extended by the Bank to [the judge's] husband" but that she "was not involved in obtaining the loans."
The judge agreed that her participation in the cases was improper. The panel found that the judge's decisions in the bank cases were unaffected by her husband's connection and that she had suffered adverse publicity "both during and in the aftermath of a highly contentious campaign for a seat on the supreme court." Reprimand is appropriate because "there is no likelihoood that...violation of the [judicial conduct] Code will recur-either by her, or by other judges...Though Justice Ziegler violated the Code of Judicial Conduct, she did so without moral culpability, which, were that present, would require a different [and presumably harsher] result." (Mike Frisch)
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