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Los Angeles, California                                               October 16, 2005
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More Nonsense From The Argus Leader
- Namely, J.A.I.L. Attacks Citizens

Accountability initiative attacks Legislature, citizens

For the Argus Leader
October 16, 2005

There is an initiated constitutional amendment circulating South Dakota, the Judicial Accountability Initiative Law (J.A.I.L.). While purporting to provide remedies for citizens victimized by activist judges ignoring the law and Constitution, it is anything but that. It is an attack on our Legislature, judiciary and state and local citizen boards.

Proponents admit that South Dakota does not have problems with its judges but that this initiated measure is designed to make sure there is a remedy should abuses occur. It isn't necessary. South Dakota judges are subject to being voted out of office by our citizens. In addition, our citizens have an absolute right to reject a particular circuit judge from sitting on a case where a party has concerns that he or she will be treated unfairly.

Unlike other states where appeals to the Supreme Court are limited, in South Dakota, all parties have an absolute right to appeal a judge's decision to our Supreme Court. Ethical violations by a judge are investigated by the Judicial Qualifications Commission - a constitutionally created body charged with judicial oversight. In other words, in case a problem arises in the future, South Dakotans already enjoy many protections against alleged abusive judges.

While being promoted as a check against an abusive judiciary, J.A.I.L. reaches much further. It covers all persons shielded by judicial immunity. Every school board, city council, county commission, professional licensing board - in fact, every citizen board in South Dakota exercises limited quasi-judicial powers and thus would be subject to being sued under J.A.I.L. A bad doctor could sue members of the state medical board for suspension or revocation of medical license. A bad teacher could sue individual members of the local school board for terminating his or her teaching contract.

Under JA.I.L., the special grand jury is empowered to rule on the law and the facts. In other words, it is a super legislature having the power to overrule the Legislature, decide which laws or constitutional provisions to enforce or ignore and then also decide the facts. While J.A.I.L. purports to rein in activist judges creating judge-made laws, it would create a special grand jury with the power to reject laws enacted by the Legislature. Even judges and citizen boards strictly complying with South Dakota law could be subjected to lawsuits.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of J.A.I.L. is that it is decidedly anti-law enforcement. It would allow convicted drug dealers, child pornographers, felony drunk drivers and a multitude of other convicted felons to serve on the special grand jury and decide whether a judge or member of a citizen board can be sued. In fact, while the measure prohibits any member of law enforcement from sitting on the grand jury, it would permit a convicted felon currently imprisoned to serve on the jury at a daily pay of $387. That's absurd.

Frankly, criminals already have enough rights. They don't need more rights, and that's precisely what J.A.I.L. gives them.

J.A.I.L. Submits the Following to
The Argus Leader as a Rebuttal
Please read the Initiative, Mr. Barnett
By Bill Stegmeier, Gary Zerman, and Ron Branson
South Dakota Judicial Accountability Committee
According to Tom Barnett, Executive Director of the State Bar of South Dakota, terrible things will happen if the South Dakota Judicial Accountability Amendment passes. His dire predictions revealed in his October 16th  Readers Forum article are comical. It's apparent he didn't bother to actually read the Initiative before writing about it.
Barnett wildly claims the Initiative is an "attack" on the Legislature, judiciary, etc., and even law enforcement!  Not true. The Initiative does however "attack" unlawful conduct of judges, should that occur.
Barnett claims the Initiative allows seating convicted drug dealers, child pornographers, etc., and even imprisoned felons on the special grand jury.
Not true.  First off, the Initiative prohibits "stacking" the jury, let alone with the miscreants Barnett envisions. 
Secondly, the Initiative does not authorize the release of an imprisoned felon so he can serve on the jury. Barnett either made that up or he was misinformed.  Here again, he should have read the initiative before writing about it. The Initiative simply seeks to prevent judicial misconduct.
How many times have you heard the expression "No man is above the law"?Barnett's article sidesteps the reality that judges are in fact above the law - even for malicious and corrupt acts - through their self-made power grab called "judicial immunity".
Visit: http://www.sd-jail4judges.org - click "Judicial Immunity". Learn the truth about what our judiciary has become.
Barnett claims that the "Proponents admit South Dakota does not have problems with its judges."  Well who really knows? Fact is the SD judiciary remains a mystery. Try to find information on how to file a complaint of misconduct against a judge. Call up your local Clerk of Courts. Chances are even they won't know.  Search the website of the South Dakota Unified Judicial System. Nope, nothing there either. It's like they don't want anyone filing a complaint.
Barnett is satisfied that here in South Dakota, "Ethical violations by a judge are investigated by the Judicial Qualifications Commission." (Good luck finding these guys!)  If you do find them, you will see this group is comprised mostly of judges and lawyers. Right. Let's also put the fox in charge of the henhouse.
Mr. Barnett says the people can just vote out a bad judge.  Now that's comforting, but it doesn't solve the problem. Voting a bad judge out provides no immediate remedy to an individual harmed by a judge's judicial misconduct.  Furthermore, how would the voters ever learn about a "bad judge," considering the secretive complaint and review process that is presently in place?
Barnett quips "Criminals don't need more rights."  Fine.  The Initiative doesn't give them any more.  Barnett really should read it.
Clearly there is need for judicial accountability reform here in South Dakota, as well the rest of the country.
Read the Initiative at http://www.SouthDakotaJudicialAccountability.org. You'll be one step ahead of Mr. Barnett.
Bill Stegmeier, 50, is a South Dakota businessman and Treasurer of the South Dakota Judicial Accountability Committee.  605-368-2780
Gary Zerman is an attorney and the official spokesperson for the South Dakota Judicial Accountability Committee.  605-231-1258
Ron Branson is the founder of the national J.A.I.L. (Judicial Accountability Initiative Law) organization.  href="../../State_Chapters/dc/DC_initiative.doc">www.jail4judges.org  605-231-1358

J.A.I.L.- Judicial Accountability Initiative Law - href="../../State_Chapters/dc/DC_initiative.doc">www.jail4judges.org
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