J.A.I.L. News Journal
Los Angeles, California September 14, 2004
Let's Get Behind the Anti-Amendment A Campaign in South Dakota
Bill Stegmeier, (firstname.lastname@example.org) the South Dakota JAILer-In-Chief, is rolling up his sleeves to pitch in for the Anti-Amendment A effort in South Dakota. It proposes the appointment of judges by the governor, and takes away the voters' right to elect judges. We must do everything we can to see that Amendment A is defeated this November. The below is presented by Bill and explains the entire issue. If anyone will go the extra mile for a cause, Bill Stegmeier will! This will be a great springboard for the South Dakota J.A.I.L. campaign next year. Let Bill know what you can do.
Origin of Amendment A and the new Pro/Con/ Voter Pamphlet
I just received the following from Bob Newland here in South Dakota, ... It spells out the origin of the proposed Amendment A. Just as we suspected, Lawyers. Lawyers infatuated over Judges! Infatuated "Officers of the Court"! Long live the Judges, right boys?
Begin origin of "The South Dakota Judiciary Protection Act of 2004" ...er, I mean "Merit Selection of Circuit Court Judges Amendment." ....
House Joint Resolution 1003 (2003 Session) was sponsored by--
Representatives Michels, Cradduck, Cutler, Engels, Frost, Garnos,
Gillespie, Hanson, Hargens, Hennies, Hunhoff, Juhnke, Kroger, Lange,
LaRue, Madsen, McCaulley, McCoy, Murschel, Nesselhuf, O'Brien, Olson (Mel), Pederson (Gordon), Peterson (Bill), Peterson (Jim), Rhoden, Rounds, Sebert, Solum, Teupel, Van Norman, and Wick and Senators Bogue, Abdallah, Albers, Brown, de Hueck, Dempster, Diedrich (Larry), Duniphan, Duxbury, Earley, Jaspers, Knudson, Koetzle, Kooistra, McCracken, Moore, Olson (Ed), Reedy, Sutton (Dan), Symens, and Vitter
HJR1003 was overwhelmingly passed by the legislature (7 nays in the
Senate, none in House). The bill put a proposed amendment to Art. V Sec. 7 of the SD constitution on the ballot for 2004.
Art. 5 Sec. 7 currently reads...
§ 7. Judicial selection.
Circuit court judges shall be elected in a nonpolitical election by the
electorate of the circuit each represents for an eight-year term.
A vacancy, as defined by law, in the office of a Supreme Court
justice or circuit court judge, shall be filled by appointment of the
Governor from one of two or more persons nominated by the judicial
qualifications commission. The appointment to fill a vacancy of a
circuit court judge shall be for the balance of the unexpired term; and
the appointment to fill a vacancy of a Supreme Court justice shall be
subject to approval or rejection as hereinafter set forth.
Retention of each Supreme Court justice shall, in the manner
provided by law, be subject to approval or rejection on a nonpolitical
ballot at the first general election following the expiration of three
years from the date of his appointment. Thereafter, each Supreme Court
justice shall be subject to approval or rejection in like manner every
eighth year. All incumbent Supreme Court justices at the time of the
effective date of this amendment shall be subject to a retention
election in the general election in the year in which their respective
existing terms expire.
If the voters elect to adopt the proposed changes in November, this is
how the section will read.
§ 7. Judicial selection.
A vacancy, as defined by law, in the office of a Supreme Court justice
or circuit court judge, shall be filled by appointment of the Governor
from one of two or more persons nominated by the judicial qualifications
commission. The appointment to fill a vacancy of a Supreme Court justice or a circuit court judge shall be subject to approval or rejection as
hereinafter set forth.
Retention of each Supreme Court justice or circuit court judge
shall, in the manner provided by law, be subject to approval or rejection on a nonpolitical ballot at the first general election following the expiration of three years from the date of his appointment. Thereafter, each Supreme Court justice and circuit court judge shall be subject to approval or rejection in like manner every eighth year. All incumbent Supreme Court justices and circuit court judges at the time of the effective date of this amendment shall be subject to a retention election in the general election in the year in which their respective existing terms expire. Each Supreme Court justice shall be subject to a statewide retention election and each circuit court judge shall be subject to a retention election by the electorate
of the circuit the judge represents.
In a nutshell, the amendment would remove running for office directly as
an option for an aspirant to a judgeship. He/she would have to apply for
the position whenever a vacancy occurs, then undergo a background check performed by the Judicial Qualifications Committee (JQC) and the Div. of Crim. Investigation (DCI), and be submitted by the JQC to the governor on a list of at least three names. The governor can choose one applicant or reject all on the list. If he rejects all, the JQC repeats its procedure.
Instead of facing opponents (who might point out to the voters good
reasons to not re-elect an incumbent), judicial appointees would only
have to face retention votes (no opponent) every eight years. If one
were to be removed by the voters, he/she would be replaced by another
In House State Affairs, where testimony was first taken on the bill, the
following people testified in favor of putting the issue on the ballot.
Rep. Matt Michels;
Steve Zinter, Supreme Court Judge;
Curt Jones, Judicial Qualifications Committee, Britton;
Mike Braley, Judicial Qualifications Committee, Parkston;
Brent Wilbur, Governor's Office;
Thomas Barnett Jr., State Bar Of SD
Pretty much the same people appeared as proponents in Senate State Affairs.
Proponents' arguments were centered around a couple of political TV ads run in Ohio and Illinois from a recent election. The ads featured
attacks on judicial candidates for having taken large sums of campaign
money from lawyers, insurance companies, etc.
Proponents testified that recent Supreme Court decisions have gutted the
Canon of Judicial Ethics in So. Dak., allowing candidates for judgeships
to make statements regarding how they would rule on certain matters of
law in case that could very well reach their courtrooms. They would also
be allowed to solicit campaign money.
All proponents stated that this had not been a problem in So. Dak., but
that it probably would be, given the Supreme Court rulings, and given
that all circuit judges in the state are up for re-election in 2006.
Proponents praised the level of quality of the background checks and the
process of the JQC, which has recommended SD Supreme Court justice
nominees to the governor since 1979. "That process has worked really
well," they said.
No opponents testified at any step along the legislative process.
That, I believe is a pretty good summary of what's happened so far.
Our group, the Citizens for Open Government (COG, until we come up with a better name, I guess), believes that the proposed amendment reduces, removes, the voters' influence over one leg of government; further, it removes the "advise and consent" options from both the legislature and the people with regard to that leg of government.
For me, personally, this issue presents a choice similar to, "Would I
like to have you chop off my right index finger, or my left?"
On one hand, the current system sucks. Almost nobody knows what judges do. Fewer know why. Most voters couldn't name a local judge. Most voters wouldn't recognize a constitutional violation if they searched their underwear drawer (which happens regularly). Most SD judges seem not to be able to recognize them, either.
On the other hand, passage of "A" would mean that the People of So. Dak. have lost forever their ability to affect the direction their courts
take. They will have given it to a group of about ten people, who are at
least as subject to the temptations of special interest groups as are
those they are trying to shield from those temptations.
That having been said, I think it's better to know your local elected
judge is in the pockets of the insurance lawyers, than to simply suspect
it about the members of the JQC, the State Bar, and the governor.
End origin of Amendment A article.
And now, visit the following link to read the much awaited Amendment A Pro/Con arguments, which by law, must be made available to the voters.
On a sad note, I see my "friend" Greg Belfrage of talk radio KELO AM here in Sioux Falls has so far chosen to remain silent on Amendment A. I really thought he'd hammer this one. Do you suppose Greg sought out advice from his lawyer/legislator chums at the state capitol who may have advised Greg to lay low on this one? Well, maybe it's time to put a little healthy shame on Greg. From here on out, anything I say or write about Amendment A will mention Greg's timidness. Hey, even if he agrees with the Pharisees, he should still open the issue up to discussion on his show, not crawl into a hole and hope the issue fades away. What say you Greg?
But even more sad is that even the local liberal rag "The Argus Liar", (oops, I meant to say Leader, Argus Leader) whose motto should be "All the news that fits our liberal bias is fit to print", also has no opinion on the proposed Amendment A. Well what a surprise!
It appears to me, at least at the present time, the only way to raise awareness to this blatant power grab may very well be by taking it directly to the street.
We will need yard signs, car window signs, and paid spots in the newspapers. We will need to put up flyers at every bulletin board in every town, including the local grain elevators and coffee shops, Get n'Go's, Gas Stops, Food N Fuel and what have you. Time to crank out letters to the Editors. Let's hit every possible SD paper. Repeatedly.
Time to spread the word "Vote No on Amendment A" wherever we go, including church. Print up business cards explaining what the lawyers and judges are up to. (pass these cards out like they were candy. Get your friends to pass them out. Leave a few laying on counters, restaurant tables, and anywhere else you can think of.
We need more judicial accountability, not less. We The Citizens, We The People.... MUST NOT LOSE our say in who sits in judgment of us.
I myself have three large company trucks. These trucks will be movable billboards, displaying professionally made signs around Sioux Falls and the surrounding area. Anywhere there is something going on, people will see my "Stop the Judicial Power Grabbers. Vote No on Amendment A" signs.
Even a mini-van can be used as a mobile billboard. How 'bout all those pickups. A 4'x8" piece of plywood, painted on both sides and supported upright in the back of your pickup works great as a mobile billboard.
And, we need a web site so people can get more info on why Amendment A stinks. Anyone up to it? I would, but I am between webmasters.
Please pass this around. Let's brainstorm. Screw the establishment media. We can do this without them.
Let's get busy.
(South Dakota J.I.C.)
Bill corresponds to Sam Kooiker, S.D. Alderman
Let the judges' oily hides cure in the sunshine of voter scrutiny!
What the hay, I'll just forward this email to Greg (Belfrage)! [talk show host] (Come on Greg, if you ARE for Amendment A, which is fine, why not convince your audience of it's merits? p.s Greg, your "Daily Download" http://www.keloam.com/shows.php?show=afternoon is over a week old. Great time to update it with a discussion of Amendment A, don't you think? )
With the Rapid City Journal coming out in favor of Amendment A, the Argus sure to follow, and with the almost unanimous support in the Good ol' Boy's Club legislature, I think we can now see what's going on here. The judges don't want a no-holds-barred campaign environment. Amendment A would avoid that, and as an added bonus give the incumbents an extra layer of immunity from the unwashed.
One must also keep in mind, the judge's troopie-dupes, the lawyers, (legislators) are all "officers of the court". Sure, they come on to the public like they are independent and care only for their clients' well being, but the fact of the matter is they must lick the judges' feet or they are out of a job. The voters matter little to these lawyer slimeballs. If the judges want to be appointed instead of elected, then that will be what the lawyers want too. They owe their allegiance to the courts.
It's very revealing what the two judges interviewed by the RCJ said about what could happen if Amendment A is not passed. Basically, they admit the likelihood of their black-robed brothers sinking to their lowest moral denominator if given free reign during their election campaigns!
I say let the games begin. Let the sunlight of voter scrutiny warm their oily hides. They are worried that certain members of their profession will not be able to control their lust for judicial control, and without Amendment A will resort to finger pointing to gain votes.
"Well, we can't have that sort of behavior from such an esteemed institution as the Judiciary, can we? My God, one lawyer stabbing another in the back, just to get elected? How will we maintain the public's unquestioning respect once they see us for who we are? We must at any cost protect our phony baloney public perception of "Justice for All."
I for one enjoy finger pointing. So let them expose each other. Then let the people decide at the ballot box.
"..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 <><