Wisconsin Supreme Court reprimands one of its own

Chris Rizo May 28, 2008, 3:27pm

Annette Ziegler

MADISON, Wis. (Legal Newsline)-The Wisconsin Supreme Court reprimanded one of its own on Wednesday for conflicts of interest during cases she presided over while a circuit court judge.

Justice Annette Ziegler, the newest member of the state's high court, could have been censured, been given an unpaid suspension or removed from the bench.

"The appropriate sanction to be imposed here is a public reprimand. Any discipline less severe than a public reprimand would not adequately convey the gravity with which this court views Judge Ziegler's violation of a bright-line rule of the Code of Judicial Conduct," the justices wrote in their ruling.

Five of the court's justices concurred with the unsigned opinion. Dissenting was Justice Louis Butler, who said fact-finding in the case was inadequate.

The state's Judicial Conduct Panel said it recommended just a reprimand because neither Ziegler nor her family benefited from her handling of the cases, which involved West Bend Savings Bank, where her husband was a paid director.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign filed a complaint and the state Judicial Commission began an investigation.

The independent commission found that Ziegler should have recused herself from 11 cases or disclosed her possible conflicts of interest to the parties involved.

"Given her knowledge of her husband's relationships with the bank, red flags of danger were prominently flying," the panel wrote.

Ziegler was elected to the Supreme Court in April 2007.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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