South Dakota fought off Attack on Judiciary
- Wisconsin Law Journal
South Dakota fought off attack on judiciary
When the judiciary comes under attack, it is important to convince the business community that they have the strongest interest in a stable court system.
That was the lesson that Thomas Barnett, executive director of the State Bar of South Dakota, conveyed to the Wisconsin State Bar at its annual convention on May 9.
Although the judiciary has been under threat in this country at least since the case of Marbury v. Madison, the worst it has gotten in Wisconsin is scurrilous demands for judges and justices to recuse themselves, even in cases in which they have no interest.
But two years ago in South Dakota things went further. Much further.
A group calling itself “J.A.I.L.” led by California minister and frustrated pro se litigant Ron Branson, came up with a proposal called “JAIL4JUDGES,” that would strip judges of judicial immunity, and even subject them to criminal sanctions.
Branson, the “commander-in-chief” of the group (all dues-paying members have paramilitary ranks), chose South Dakota as the forum for the initiative, because it takes few signatures to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot, and requires only a mere majority to pass.
J.A.I.L., which stands for Judicial Accountability Initiative Law, would have created “Special Grand Juries” consisting of 23 citizens who are not officers of the government or members of the bar, to be drawn by lottery to hear complaints against judges.
The special grand juries would have had the power to strip judges of judicial immunity, and to investigate, indict, and even initiate criminal prosecution of “wayward judges.”
Judges amassing three adverse immunity decisions or criminal convictions would have been kicked off the bench, with their retirement benefits cut by at least half. Support for the Special Grand Juries would have come from a deduction of 2.9 percent of all state judges’ pay.
The proposal was ultimately defeated at the polls by a margin of 89 percent to 11 percent, even though early polls showed voters in favor of the proposal by margins of 3 to 1.
To raise funds to fight the initiative, Barnett went to the business community, which was at first indifferent.
When asked by a corporation why it should care about an initiative in a state where it does only 0.1 percent of its litigation, Barnett stated he would respond, “because if it passes, you’ll be doing 99 percent of your litigation there.”
By emphasizing that the amendment, if passed, would allow juries to disregard the provisions of the Uniform Commercial Code, Barnett was able to enlist the business community to help defeat the measure.
Besides individual businesses, Barnett formed an alliance with tort reform groups, the state’s chamber of commerce, and “anyone with a lobbyist” to defeat the measure.
“I figured that anyone with a lobbyist has an interest in an independent, impartial judiciary,” Barnett stated.
Key to defeating the measure was using laypersons as spokespersons against the measure.
Focus groups that Barnett assembled indicated that judges were the worst messengers for the group, with lawyers being second worst.
Instead of making the case against the measure himself, Barnett toured the state with a layperson to deliver the message. Barnett was just there to answer technical questions that the layperson could not.
Although J.A.I.L. had intended to move on to other states in 2008 after South Dakota, and eventually enact similar measures in all 50 states, according to Barnett, the group has no initiatives on the November ballot in any state.
Attempts to reach Branson using a contact number listed on the J.A.I.L. Web site were unsuccessful.
1 Comments on This Article
I learned how intensely corrupt the judicial system has become by fourteen trips to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking redress of grievances. In April, 1995 I determined to create an alternative means for the People of this country to obtain a remedy by by-passing the courts and the establishment. I knew full well that the establishment had to muster all its support it could to defeat the People's Initiative which would provide the People Judicial Accountability. J.A.I.L. is the only available remedy for the People to regain their freedom to this country.
Att. Barnett anonymously polled to find the most ridiculous presentation he could find to tell People what J.A.I.L. was about. His conclusion, he found, was to say that 86% of the People opposed releasing felons out of prison so they could go after the Jurors who convicted them and placed them in there. So that is what he used. His goal was to keep the People's mind off the fact that this was about judges and Judicial Accountability in keeping the judges faithful to their Oaths of Office to uphold and defend the Constitution, and the laws made in pursuance thereof. (See the Initiative on www.jail4judges.org, and take particular note of paragraph 2, which they wish to avoid at all costs.)
I shall be happy to take the calls of anyone interested at (818) 310-8999 regarding Judicial Accountability. As stated in the above article, we are a nationwide organization, and have thousands of followers seeking justice throughout this country.
Ron Branson, CIC
P.O. Box 207
North Hollywood, CA. 91603
Comment By Ron Branson - J.A.I.L. Commander-In-Chief
Saturday, May 17, 2008 at 6:08 PM