Monday, January 29, 2007

Premature attack in the Supreme Court race

One Wisconsin is all over Supreme Court candidate Annette Ziegler for "accepting" a case involving the Hartford Board of Zoning Appeals' approval of an automotive operation at a Wal-Mart Supercenter. Blogger Cory Liebman notes that Judge Ziegler owns stock in Wal-Mart and "wonder[s] why Annette Ziegler would have accepted such a case despite the possible conflict of interests." He goes on to ruminate on whether she will be a justice who favors the dreaded "powerful corporate interests."

This may be a case of letting one's partisan's interests get in the way of actually taking the time to understand what happened here. All that has happened is a complaint (technically a petition for review and supporting documents) were filed with the court. I assume that Cory Liebman is not a lawyer so I don't expect him to understand how the filing of a lawsuit works, but he should take the time to find out if he wishes to comment on it.

So for Cory, here's a primer: Someone walks into (or sends something into) the clerk's office. The case is accepted by a clerical employee and randomly assigned to a judge. After the party who filed the case (not even the clerk) serves the documents on the other side, there is an automatically prescribed period of time for the other side to respond (usually by filing an answer). During all this time, the judge does exactly nothing and may or may not even be aware of the case. At some point, when it does require her attention, she may make a decision to either recuse herself or disclose her interest to the parties.

I would think that Judge Ziegler's holdings in Wal-Mart might very well be something she may want to disclose to the parties (although I don't know that they require recusal; this decision isn't going to affect the share value), but, whatever you think of the matter, it is premature to criticize her for not doing something in a case in which there have been no appearances in court and which she may or may not even be aware of.

And, if they weren't so eager to score a "gotcha", One Wisconsin might have held their fire until they actually had a point to make.


Anonymous said...

But alas, scoring "gotcha's" are exactly what happens any more in political campaigns and especially in blogging.

And what else will be written about the Supreme Court race? Neither candidate can talk about their beliefs because they're gonna be judges.

We're stuck with either reading past decisions (boring for us non-lawyers) or "Gotcha's". Which is easier?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your "primer". Rather than clog up your comment section, please read my rebuttle to your post at the link below:
Cory Liebmann

Anonymous said...

Ricky, this phenomenon is hardly confined to the left. Consider our fighting Attorney General, who went from one end of the state to the other excoriating his two predecessors for the horrible crime lab backlog. Then he takes office and the first thing he finds out is that he can't cure the backlog either. You and others of your ilk have given him a free pass on this issue. After all, it was only a political issue and didn't mean a bucket of warm piss to you and anyone else on the right other than an instrument with which to bludgeon others.

Mr. Pot -- meet Mr. Kettle! You two have a lot in common.

Rick Esenberg said...


Unless you are my mother, don't call me Ricky.

When did I ever say it was confined to the left? It's not.

I can't speak for those of my ilk, but I don't think Van Hollen is covering himself in glory on that.

As for Cory, nice attempt at back fill, but it doesn't work. The only reason that Judge Ziegler would address a conflict of interest in a case before she addresses the case itself is so that bloggers can't play "gotcha." She hasn't done anything in the case - no one has - and the notion that it is "irresponsible" for her not to have addressed a potential conflict within four weeks and before an answer has been filed or she has had the lawyers before her is overwrought.

Anonymous said...

If the party adverse to Wal-Mart really thinks that Judge Ziegler was biased in Wal-Mart's favor, it can substitute on her.

Moreover, I know from experience that Washington County judges do not address recusal with the parties until the scheduling conference.

Anonymous said...

If she won't recuse herself from a case that ahs all the appearance of special interest, how can anyone trust her to recuse a far more important case in the future?
Judges are expected to be impartial in all cases; wihtout taint.
What I find more insulting is her choice of campaign manager, Mark Graul, the Jack Abramoff link is going to stick to her with that choice.
So much for ethics, much less impartiality from Ziegler

Rick Esenberg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rick Esenberg said...

Once again without typos:


I'll say it again. We don't know if she is going to recuse herself from the case or disclose her interest to the parties yet. Anyone who thinks that she should have done that by now does not know anything about how these things actually work.

Anonymous said...

Some more facts from those "in the know", a.k.a., Hartford Citizens for Responsible Government (HCRG):

1. Judge Ziegler WAS aware of the circumstances of the HCRG case prior to an HCRG Press Release that brought the issue to the forefront.

2. The press release was issued just 3 days before the case was to be heard.

3. The reason for the press release was to make sure that she did so before tying up court time and the costs for attorney fees for representatives of Wal-Mart, HCRG, City of Hartford, and The Hartford Zoning Board of Appeals, especially since many of those attorney fees are paid for out of taxpayer coffers.

4. Judge Ziegler recused herself from the case the next day, after a call from a reporter questioning her on this issue.

My main concern that ANY perception of conflict of interest MUST be cause for immediate recusal. The fact that she did not do so - even if the case was a "no-brainer open and shut case" - should raise an immediate red flag to any court that she is EVER elected or appointed to.

"goofticket" is right on the money!

More on this can be found at http://www.hartfordcrg/forum

Member, HCRG