Cause for Concern on the High Court

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On Wednesday the State Supreme Court issued its ruling in the disciplinary case against Justice Annette Ziegler. The matter has been a dubious first in the history of the high court. As expected, Ziegler’€™s colleagues took the recommendation of the Judicial Commission and the Judicial Conduct Panel and gave her a public reprimand, which was the very least form of discipline possible.

Ziegler’€™s immediate response after her colleagues handed down the decision, seemed like it was lifted directly from her non-responsive and misleading campaign statements. In her reaction Wednesday, she said that she was pleased that the Supreme Court ‘€œconfirmed’€ that her ‘€œmistake’€ was ‘€œinadvertent’€ and that her family didn’€™t benefit financially from her violations. Her canned response lacked contrition and totally ignored the more pointed observations of her colleagues. They affirmed that her violations did constitute misconduct and that they were ‘€œserious and willful.’€ Further, they spoke of the ‘€œgravity with which this court views Judge Ziegler’€™s violation’€.

Ziegler has shown that she has not fully learned her lesson from the scandal. We have not only learned this from her inadequate response Wednesday but also from some of her actions after joining the high court. At the same time that her conflicts scandal was in the news she decided to stay on a case involving Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), even though they spent millions to get her elected. If the attention that she received couldn’€™t convince her to be above reproach, the light tap on the wrist that she received Wednesday is not likely to change her pattern of behavior.

The new picture of our state’€™s high court continues to be disconcerting. We have one Justice that repeatedly committed serious ethics violations and still has not appeared to learn her lesson. Now we have another, in Michael Gableman, who not only ran one of the most dishonest and despicable campaigns, but also may escape legitimate investigations based on ‘€œtechnicalities.’€ Combine all of these things with the WMC’€™s salivating over the thought of buying another corporate seat on the court next year. We have many reasons to be very concerned with the high court and justice in our state.

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