"I have exercised my right under the law. I'm entitled to do that, and it doesn't disqualify me from sitting as a judge."
That's what Supreme Court Justice David Prosser had to say when asked by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about whether he thinks he could rule on cases involving ethics complaints leveled against Annette Ziegler after contributing to Ziegler's campaign to replace retiring Justice Jon Wilcox.
Earth to Prosser! Maybe the money you gave doesn't disqualify you from sitting as a judge. But it sure as hell disqualifies you from sitting in judgment of Annette Ziegler.
By the way, this is the same Justice Prosser who had no misgivings about being a character witness for Scott Jensen at the former Assembly speaker's criminal trial and was even prepared to testify that Jensen had not done anything that Prosser didn't do when he was speaker, even though the state Supreme Court has final say over Jensen's case.
"Circuit judges are not above the law and may be investigated by the Judicial Commission, prosecuted and disciplined by this Court when appropriate. However, under the doctrine of separation of powers and this Court's superintending authority, circuit judges cannot be regulated and disciplined by an Executive Branch agency."
That's how Ziegler's legal team expressed her belief that no one but Supreme Court justices should be able to sit in judgment of her. She has asked the high court to block a conflict-of-interest complaint filed against her by the state Ethics Board. Ziegler is arguing the separation of powers between the branches of government should prevent an executive branch agency, namely the Ethics Board, from seeking to hold an official in the judicial branch, namely her, accountable for obeying state ethics laws. State law bars public officials from acting on matters in which their immediate family has a substantial financial interest. Each violation is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000.
Um, Judge Ziegler, your honor, just one question. . . . If the separation of powers doctrine means what you say it means – that the executive or legislative branches of government have no authority whatsoever over you and your colleagues in the judicial branch – does that mean you will not pass judgment on the actions of officials in the other two branches of government or hold them accountable for legal trespasses if you ever make it to the Supreme Court?
Can't wait to hear your answer.