In yesterday's legal news, the Judicial Commission has issued a complaint against Justice Anette Ziegler for failing to recuse herself from some cases involving West Bend Savings & Loan of which her husband is director. I haven't seen the papers but apparently the Commission and Ziegler have agreed to recommend a public reprimand.
I occasionally review these things with respect to attorneys as a court appointed referee. Here the recommendation will be reviewed by a three judge panel. As in attorney discipline cases, the panel will make a recommendation to the Court. Neither the panel nor the Court has to accept the recommendation. At least in attorney discipline, most consensual reprimands are accepted.
I think the recommendation is about right. She has no prior discipline and it appears that the error was a result of carelessness rather than any malicious intent. No one was injured and she seems to have expressed the appropriate contrition.
Yesterday, during Backstory on Eric Von's show, Eric suggested that the discipline should be affected by the fact that she is on the Supreme Court. He argued that "we ought to expect more" of such people. I suppose that could be a pertinent consideration. One of the purposes of attorney and judicial discipline is to protect the public from lawyers and judges who cannot or will not conform their conduct to professional standards.
But, as I pointed out, we can't lose sight of the fact that our state Constitution provides for an elected judiciary and to remove or suspend a sitting Justice of the state Supreme Court is to interfere with a choice that the voters have made. While circuit court judges are elected too, there is no expectation that each will sit on all cases that come before the circuit court. In that sense, the fact that she is now on the Supreme Court could actually cut against harsher discipline. (I also think that there can be a different recusal calculus on the Supreme Court in situations where recusal is a judgment call.)