Saturday, May 19, 2007

Annette Ziegler: ethical violations are easy when you have enough money to pay for them.

Hi folks,

Good grief.


Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice-elect Annette Ziegler has acknowledged she violated the state's conflict-of-interest law and agreed to pay $17,000, including a $5,000 fine, the Wisconsin Ethics Board announced Wednesday.

Ms. Ziegler is a liar, too. By confessing to these violations, she admits she lied in those whiney commercials when she complained about Linda Clifford pointing out her, now admitted, habitual violations of ethical conduct.

Not mud, just fact.

I guess if you have enough money, being unethical isn't a problem. I wonder if the voters still want someone with this kind of ethical myopia to sit on our Supreme Court? Maybe the voters don't care so long as she coughs up the $22,000. Hmm.

She's not out of the woods yet, of course:
The Supreme Court justice-elect also is the subject of a complaint filed with the Wisconsin Judicial Commission alleging she violated the judicial ethics code by presiding over cases involving the bank and several companies in which she owns $50,000 or more in stock. The commission is currently investigating those allegations.

I suspect all of this was more carelessness than intentional, but I don't want anyone that careless on the Supreme Court. Still don't.

I wonder if Ms. Ziegler would want someone like her on the Supreme Court?



Anonymous said...

Earth to Mark,
Get over it. I cannot believe that a man who claims to be a philosopher can view matters of ethics in such a black and white way. You forgot to report that the Ethics Committee found no fault in her judgements and agreed that her family did not benefit financially. Does the truth of the matter mean nothing to you if it does not fit with your political bias?

Mpeterson said...

Hi everyone,

"Earth to Mark" is how people always begin when they draw lousy cards. "Get over it" is what they say when they actually know they're wrong. Here, look:

Suppose you're out with your friends, have a few too many beers, and decide to drive home. Unfortunately the police catch you, pull you over, run a breathalizer proving you're over the legal limit, and then charge you with DUI. Afterwards, you insist that the arrest was stupid because 1) you did a "gut check" and decided you didn't feel impaired and 2) even if you were, nobody got hurt.

Ms Ziegler's position is the same. The rules give specific limits on what judges can do. She drove home anyway. After she got pulled over she complained that 1) she'd done a "gut check" and decided that her judgements weren't impaired and 2) even if they were, nobody got hurt.

As with any drunk driver, the fact that she didn't feel impaired doesn't mean she wasn't over the legal limit. When she paid the fine she admitted that she'd crossed over the line.

Anonymous complained I was being too black and white about this, but let's just test it in the real world.

Would you try pulling this on the police if you were caught driving over the legal limit? Would you try pulling it on the judge?

"How do you plead?"

"Not guilty, your Honor."

"But it says in the police report that you were over the legal limit."

"Yes your Honor, but I did a gut check first and decided I didn't feel impaired -- and besides, nobody got hurt."

"Oh, wow. Okay. In that case, a small fine seems appropriate. Case dismissed."

Yeah. Right.

Anonymous' argument only works in the blog-universe, not in the real one. Don't believe me? Go ten rounds with Jose Cuervo and then try it out on a State Trooper.

In the real world Judge Ziegler herself wouldn't have let you off.

Earth to Anonymous: ethics is nothing but gray. That's why we don't depend on ethics to maintain social order. That's why we govern ourselves by rules and regulations instead. And why? Because rules and regulations can be black and white -- that's their advantage. Ethics just leaves us in the quicksand of gray gray gray.

By agreeing to pay her fine, Judge Ziegler took responsibility for her actions and showed that she understands the rules. That's good. It also caught her in the position of having initially lied to the arresting officer -- as I pointed out. That's embarrassing.

Now, perhaps Anonymous would like to make the case that Judges who knowingly violate established black and white regulations, and then admit to violating those regulations, didn't really violate those regulations since 1) she didn't feel her judgment was impaired and 2) besides, even if it was, nobody got hurt.

I don't think judges should act that way. It isn't good for the judge and it isn't good for the society that has to trust her judgement.