Monday, March 05, 2007

Molehill Becomes Mountain for Lefties; DeMinimis and Materiality Counts

Ol' Jay is in high dudgeon over Judge Ziegler. Here's where we instruct Jay about the term "material."

Since 2002, Judge Ziegler has presided over nearly four dozen cases involving [the West Bend Savings Bank, from whom her husband draws a paycheck].

Then he quotes a Madistan newspaper editorial:

Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Annette Ziegler failed to disclose a conflict of interest in at least four cases over which she presided as a circuit judge in the past year, interviews and court documents indicate.

So what's this all about?

In at least one of the cases, the judgment was over $10,000.

My, my.

JJZiegler is one of NINE (9) directors of the Bank. He is not listed as an active officer or executive. Thus, his earnings at the Bank are only dividend-payments on Bank stock, plus some Director's fees.

The Bank's loan-portfolio is about $250 million and its equity is $28 million or so. JJ Ziegler's dividend-income from a $10K loan is flat-out negligible--if not infinitesimal.

Although none of the articles (so far) quote judicial rules of conduct, it's my guess that a "conflict of interest" for a judge must be "material."

(Material: Adjective: "Being both relevant and consequential; crucial"--American Heritage Dictionary)

And so far, nobody's suggested (even in jest) that earnings from a $10K loan, reduced by the Bank's operating costs, reduced again by taxes, reduced again by a required reserve, and then distributed 9 ways, are in any sense 'relevant,' nor 'consequential, much less "crucial."

UPDATE: Sure enough, the term "material" is found. Look in this document at S.19.45 and what do we see?

"...that standards of ethical conduct for state public officials need to distinguish between those minor and inconsequential conflicts that are unavoidable in a free society, and those conflicts which are substantial and material;

and in (2): No state public official may use his or her public position or office to obtain
financial gain or anything of substantial value for the private benefit of himself or
herself or his or her immediate family, or for an organization with which he or she
is associated.

UPDATE: Judicial Code of Ethics

A little more homework, and here's the applicable section from the Code of Ethics (P. 14 of the Code):

(d) The judge knows that he or she, individually or as a fiduciary, or the judge's spouse or minor child wherever residing, or any other member of the judge's family residing in the judge's
household has an economic interest in the subject matter in controversy or in a party to the proceeding or has any other more than de minimis interest that could be substantially affected by the proceeding.

The test has two parts. First, "de minimis" interest; second, "substantially affected." Let's assume that JJZiegler's interest in the Bank is more than "de minimis." That means we have to go to the second test, "substantially affected."

There is no reasonable basis to argue that JJZiegler's interest could be "substantially affected" by a $10K default judgment, given that the Bank's portfolio is well over $250 million dollars. $10K is .0004 of $250 million.


Please, Xoff and Jay. Be serious!

But hey! Maybe they can find a bundled contribution from the roadbuilders if they look hard enough.

P.S.: As I had suspected, Xoff has his grimy little prints all over this "scandal" non-story. It fits his style--slime with no facts. See Jay's combox.


Anonymous said...

Many conservatives are not trying to white-wash Judge Ziegler's ethic violations because we do not want to place a judge in the Supreme Court with serious ethic problems.

We are not with you in your attempts.

Dad29 said...

Don't lie to me about being 'a conservative.'

Also--learn how to spell, and work on English grammar.

Now that those things are out of the way, you want to discuss "serious" ethics problems?