I haven't thought this through but I think it's interesting.
One of the requests for information by the panel reviewing the Judicial Commission's recommendation of a reprimand for Justice Annette Ziegler strikes me as intriguing. The panel wants to know when Justice Ziegler conceded that she had violated a rule requiring her to recuse herself from cases involving West Bend Savings & Loan.
On the one hand, this seems unexceptional. One factor commonly considered in attorney discipline is the degree to which the lawyer was forthright in response to allegations of wrongdoing and what that tells us about whether he or she understands what happened. Why should it be different with judges?
But in the run of cases, this involves conduct with clients and the Office of Lawyer Regulation - the agency that investigates and brings charges of attorney misconduct. It tends not to involve what people say in an election campaign.
My recollection is that candidate Ziegler did not comment directly on the allegations of a rule violation. She said she welcomed an investigation and jumped to the claim that the cases were decided properly, i.e., the plaintiff and defendant eventually got the right result. If by result, one means the ultimate judgement in the case, that seems right as far as anyone can tell. She characterized the whole thing as "no scandal" which isn't quite the same thing as saying that she did not violate the rule (although I suppose one could argue that it bears upon her understanding of the rule).
Could the panel (and Supreme Court) now take into account the fact that she did not concede a violation during the campaign in deciding upon discipline? Would that raise First Amendment concerns in that it would penalize her for not engaging in certain types of speech in a context other than responding to regulatory authorities? We know that not all aspects of the Judicial Code may withstand First Amendment scrutiny. Judge Shabaz recently held that construction of the code to prohibit judicial candidates from answering questions about generic issues like the death penalty is unconstitutional. Should the discipline of a judicial candidate be affected by the fact that he or she may have avoided admitted a rule violation during a campaign?