There is still a great deal of back and forth over what the proper sanction ought to be for Justice Ziegler's breach of rules that required her to recuse herself or to disclose her husband's directorship in some cases involving West Bend Saving. A panel of judges has recommended a public reprimand. Critics say that this is not enough.
I am privileged to serve the Wisconsin Supreme Court as a referee in attorney discipline cases. If I have a lawyer who I have found to have violated (or, as is often the case, he or she admits violating), I have to recommend the degree of discipline. (The final decision on violation and discipline is always with the Court.)
If you look through the reporters, discipline varies greatly and it is tough to compare one case to another because few are exactly the same. One of the things that you look for is intent. Did the person knowingly break the rules? If not, you make an assessment as to why he or she failed to follow them and try to make a judgment about the likelihood of it happening again. You look to see whether anyone was harmed by the violation (and, if so, what can be done to provide restitution). You ask whether the lawyer understands what he or she did wrong and why it is wrong. You look at whether the lawyer properly adjusted his or her attitude (although this is more important in cases involving reinstatement after suspension). You consider his or her past - what kind of a lawyer has he or she been? Has there been prior discipline?
Rightly or wrongly, in most cases where 1) the violation is unintentional and the lawyer had no intent to obtain an unjust benefit, 2) no one was harmed and 3) there is no prior history of discipline, the recommended (and accepted) discipline is a public (or, very often, a private, i.e., nonpublic) reprimand. This is why I have argued from the outset that this case looks like a public reprimand to me.
Maybe you think that we in the legal profession aren't hard enough on our sisters and brothers who stray. Perhaps you can argue that we ought to be more unforgiving with judges. There are far fewer judicial discipline cases to provide guidance. so I can't say whether my impression from attorney cases is, as we say, "on all fours" here.
I also know that it is hard to disentangle our preferences for one candidate or another from that we think the proper resolution ought to be. But, putting aside how it ought to be applied here, I am confident that the generalization that I just made is accurate.
I report, you decide.