* * * South Dakota J.A.I.L. Press Release * * *
South Dakota J.A.I.L. Press Release
(By Bill Stegmeier - South Dakota JAILer-In-Chief)
The following press release went out to 138 South Dakota newspapers on Wednesday the 9th. We're on the way!
Bill Stegmeier, a businessman from Tea, South Dakota, has turned in approximately 46,800 petition signatures supporting a proposed amendment that would allow people to sue judges for judicial misconduct.
The petition signatures were hand delivered to Secretary of State Chris Nelson and state Election Supervisor Kea Warne on Monday, the deadline for submission of 2006 ballot measures.
Nelsons office will now count the signatures to certify that the required 33,456 valid signatures were collected.
The proposed amendment, titled the Judicial Accountability Initiative Law, or J.A.I.L., is designed to make the judicial branch of state government answerable and accountable to an entity other than itself. The entity that this amendment creates is a Special Grand Jury, comprised of ordinary SD citizens, who are empowered to hear complaints of judicial misconduct. If, after careful investigation including testimony from both the complainant and the Judge, the Special Grand Jury finds for the complainant, the judicial immunity from lawsuit will be set aside, thereby allowing the complainant to sue the judge for damages.
J.A.I.L. is intended to prevent judicial malfeasance such as ignored laws, ignored evidence, sophistry, eminent domain abuse, confiscation of property without due process, probate fraud, secret dockets, graft, falsifications of court records, family court misconduct, and other abuses. Once passed, the doctrine of Judicial Immunity will no longer protect a judge guilty of any of the above stated infractions.
One of the opponents to the South Dakota Judicial Accountability effort is Thomas Barnett, Executive-Director of the South Dakota Bar Association who, before the signatures were submitted, wrote editorials against J.A.I.L. in severalSouth Dakota newspapers and has appeared on national radio in opposition to J.A.I.L.
One might ask themselves, is Thomas Barnett terrified that J.A.I.L. will totally upset the apple cart of the legal system? Indeed, it is obvious that Mr. Barnett has a huge burden on his shoulders to defeat J.A.I.L. in order to protect the interests of the lawyers and judges of South Dakota . Should he fail in his mission, it is certain he is not going to fare well with his judicial comrades.
As anyone who has ever been mistreated by a South Dakota judge knows, there is presently no effective means of holding the offending judge to account. Why would Mr. Barnett, or anyone for that matter, oppose judges being held accountable for misconduct?
It is also curious that many if not most South Dakota attorneys are also opposed to J.A.I.L. and its stated goal of holding judges accountable for judicial misconduct. So much for attorneys working for the best interests of their clients.
Barnett argues that J.A.I.L. is not needed. He states that people can just appeal judicial misconduct, or vote the judges out. Of course, he doesnt address the fact that the appellate courts are usually complicit with the offending judge, nor is he able to address how the public statewide can become knowledgeable as to a judges judicial misconduct in order to vote the judge out. Barnett is simply not realistic.
Barnett has devised two outrageous myths about J.A.I.L.
1. J.A.I.L. is about suing judges whose decisions you do not like.
2. J.A.I.L. will allow convicted criminals to be released from prison to serve on the Special Grand Jury.
Regarding Myth No. 1, J.A.I.L. has nothing to do with court decisions on the merits of a case. It deals only with procedural actions that violate a persons due process rights. In Paragraph 2 of the Amendment, the specific violations stated are:
-- Any deliberate violations of law
-- Fraud or conspiracy
-- Intentional violation of due process of law
-- Deliberate disregard of material facts
-- Judicial acts without jurisdiction
-- Blocking of a lawful conclusion of a case
-- Deliberate violations of the state or federal Constitutions.
It is these criteria that Mr. Barnett wishes not to deal with, lest he appear foolish in opposing them.
Regarding Myth No. 2, it is a total fabrication and is absurd on its face. Paragraph 12 of the Initiative states, in pertinent part: "Those not eligible for Special Grand Jury service shall include elected and appointed officials, members of the State Bar, judges (active or retired), judicial, prosecutorial and law enforcement personnel, without other exclusion except previous adjudication of mental incapacity, imprisonment, or parole from a conviction of a felonious crime against persons." [Emphasis added] According to what the Initiative sets forth, "imprisonment" is another exclusion to Special Grand Jury eligibility. Therefore, unlike the propaganda of Mr. Barnett, no imprisoned inmates are qualified. He knows that, but chooses to alarm the public with this absurdity, hoping the people won't read the Amendment for themselves.
The need for judicial accountability is as basic as the need for food, water, clothing, and shelter. The fact that the opposition to J.A.I.L. must resort to distortion and fabrication is a good indication why this amendment should and will be passed into law.
The South Dakota Judicial Accountability Amendment can be read at
J.A.I.L.- Judicial Accountability Initiative Law - www.jail4judges.org
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"..it does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless
minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds.." - Samuel Adams
"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is
striking at the root." -- Henry David Thoreau <><