You'd expect a political hit piece from the folks at One Wisconsin Now but its "analysis" of Annette Ziegler's rulings on cases involving West Bend Savings Bank is, to be gentle, unsophisticated. Here is the shocking conclusion:
Ziegler has ruled in favor of West Bend Savings Bank in 43 out of 44 cases (97.7%) either by awarding them a financial judgment or agreeing to their motion to dismiss a case. In 40 out of 41 cases (97.6%) where there was a monetary judgment, she sided with West Bend Savings bank.
Does this mean Ziegler improperly favored West Bend? Does it even hint at that? Isn't 97% a really high number?
It might seem so until you stop and consider the types of cases that banks are involved in. Generally speaking, they sue people to whom they lend money and who do not pay it back. In virtually every such case, these people may have an excuse - even a sympathetic one ("I was diagnosed with cancer," "I lost my job") - but they do not have a legal defense. The two nondefaulted cases cited in the press involving West Bend reflect that. Judge Ziegler should have disclosed or recused, but the defendants would have lost in front of any judge because they had no case.
As a rookie lawyer at Foley & Lardner, I had to take a six month stint doing collections work for that was then First Wisconsin. I probably sued 20-30 every week for six months, bringing over 700 cases. My recollection is that only two of those 700 filed an answer and neither of them had a valid defense.
It's in the nature of the thing. Banks don't sue people who pay them back and they rarely make a mistake about whether that has happened - much less one that goes uncorrected past the time when collection efforts have failed and the matter goes to court. (This is not because banks are morally superior entities, but because a bank that couldn't keep track of who paid it back would not be in business for long.)
My guess is that West Bend wins a comparable percentage of its cases before all the judges in Washington County as do all the other lenders that go to court out there. If Judge Ziegler did favor West Bend, it is not possible to tell from One
Annette Ziegler did fail to follow a prophylactic rule in these cases - at least in the few where the defendant did not default. That is one factor among many to be considered in choosing between the Supreme Court candidates. But One Wisconsin's study is not, although it may be worth keeping in mind when evaluating any future "research" that it may conduct.