I am concerned over your public attack against a decision by Judge Kristine Drettwan concerning a zoning citation issued by Walworth County to John Neighbors. I am troubled that as journalists, you used your Wednesday editorial ("Just another coincidence") not only to criticize Judge Drettwan’s decision in this one case but also to infer that her decision was based on race. The media attacks on the judiciary are diminishing the independence of the entire judiciary and, equally, undermining the public’s perception and confidence in it.
Newspapers may base their decision on public opinion polls and editorials that sell newspapers, but judges may not. Judges must render their decisions based upon the law and the facts presented.
You wrote that, “it’s on big coincidence” that Mr. Neighbors received citations--because of race. That is misleading the general public. When you state that it is a coincidence that Walworth County “hasn’t issued a citation for this violation in more than a decade,” that statement is misleading. I have represented similar clients who were issued zoning citations for violations of conditional-use permits that has absolutely nothing to do with race.
Your editorial made the innuendo that Judge Drettwan’s legal decision was founded in racism. You failed to consider the underlying facts, legal issues and legal principles which govern Judge Drettwan’s ruling in this case. The central guiding principle of judicial ethics is judicial independence and impartiality. It is no “coincidence” that Judge Drettwan maintains those high standards of conduct.