Updates on South Dakota Amendment A
- J.A.I.L. News Journal
Los Angeles, California October 30, 200410/27/2004
Scientific Poll: Amendment AYou know the candidates, but how well do you know the ballot issues? There are a couple of the ballot issues some people may not have heard about, such as Amendment A which has to do with circuit court judges.
Right now circuit court judges are elected to eight year terms. But if you vote yes on Amendment A, you would support a change to the constitution that would allow the governor to appoint new judges. A no vote means you want citizens to elect judges. Like they currently are.
A recent change in the law, allows judges to advertise when they're up for election. Robert Amundson, who use to sit on the state Supreme Court fears it get too political with ugly attacks.
"Oh I just fear that everything I've read and studied, if you get special interest groups, they want to referee or umpire, they call the pitch before it leaves the pitcher's hand and that's not what a judge is suppose to do," said Amundson.
But opponents of Amendment A fear if it passes, the governor could install the good old boy system.
"Governor's by nature are going to want to select people they are familiar with that they've known, went to law school with that person, maybe that lawyer supported their campaign, worked on their campaign," said Sioux Falls attorney, Doug Hoffman.
According to our scientific poll, more than half would like to leave the law the way it is, while 30% say yes, judges should be appointed by the governor. 17% are still undecided.
"To date in the state of South Dakota there has been no indication of any problems with judicial elections," said Hoffman.
"Judges aren't like politicians they don't have any specific group that are suppose to represent or curry from, they're just suppose to follow the law," said Amundson.
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SD Peace & Justice Center urges Vote NO on Amendment A
At their Fall Quarter meeting held in Sioux Falls, the board of directors of South Dakota Peace & Justice Center resolved to oppose Constitutional Amendment A, a ballot measure South Dakotans will face on November 2. Amendment A would provide that state circuit court judges be chosen by an appointed commission from among the Governor's nominations. South Dakota's constitution currently provides for a nonpolitical ballot within the circuit to select a judge for an eight-year term.
After review of the issue, the board concluded:
- Amendment A curtails democracy in our state by making judges UNACCOUNTABLE, in practical terms, EXCEPT to the executive branch of the government and an elite appointed group. This lack of accountability under Amendment A would not even be mitigated by a legislative approval process such as exists on the federal level.
- Amendment A violates the express intention of the original framers of our state constitution. Their care to assure responsiveness to the general populace is expressed not only in their provision for the selection of judges but also in the state motto, "Under God the people rule."
- The retention election that Amendment A would provide after an appointee has served three years does not offer meaningful accountability, due to the bias-inducing weight of incumbency. In states using such retention elections, almost 99 percent of the judges are retained.
- Amendment A is a needless curtailment of democracy, in that it responds to no actual problem in South Dakota's judicial selection process. The current system of electing circuit court judges on a nonpolitical ballot for eight-year terms works well in our state.
Board President Marletta Pacheco, Rapid City, sums up the disposition of the board by saying, "The conservative stance on this issue is the right stance. There is no good reason why South Dakotans should give over their constitutional power in this matter to an unaccountable group that is apt, over the years, to be influenced by cronyism and special interest. We urge Peace & Justice Center members and all South Dakota voters to vote NO on Constitutional Amendment A."
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