Barnett, of the South Dakota State Bar, Challenged to
I for one would challenge the state bar
of South Dakota
to openly debate the issue of
Let's have an honest and fair debate and
let the people
decide the issue. I think all I am
trying to convey to you
is that the issue needs addressing
openly and honestly.
-- David Estes
Mr. Dubow, CEO, Gannett
cc: Mr.Arnold Garson,
Manager, The Argus Leader
I understand that you are the CEO of Gannett
Publishing. I am writing to you to voice my concerns about an article
and recent stories appearing in one of your subsidiaries called The
Sioux Falls Argus Leader managed by a Mr. Arnold Garson.
The article in question was written by a Mr.
Thomas Barnett of the South Dakota State Bar and originally appeared in
the Rapid City Journal. The Argus Leader printed the letter on October
16th, 2005. The article itself was about an initiative being circulated
in the state of South
Dakota called the South Dakota Judicial Accountability Initiative which
in a nutshell, calls for a system to monitor the conduct of Judicial
Normally I would not get upset at anyone's
opinion about a political debate except in this case the claims made by
Mr. Barnett who claims to be the executive director of the South Dakota
State Bar were without merit. Indeed if Mr. Barnett was under oath he
would be charged with perjury. Compounding this error is the fact that
your newspaper allowed a reporter for the Argus Leader to print an
article recently which mirrored the October 16th article by Mr.
Barnett. Both articles were not accurate.
Mr. Dubow, there is a national problem with
the misconduct of judges and abuse of power by those in the judicial
system. I personally have seen the abuse. I was a police officer for
twenty-five years and can recite some rather horrendous cases
The initiative in South Dakota is trying to
address the problem of judicial misconduct. The judiciary governs
itself which is unheard of. When abuse occurs, the judges are immune
from any legal reprecussions. Government is accountable to the people.
When accountability to the people ceases then we might as well appoint
a king or a dictator to rule.
It seems to me that a person in your
position who has the ability and responsibility to investigate wrong
doing should not turn a deaf ear to those that are trying in their own
way to correct a problem with our system of government. Judicial abuse
needs to be examined and debated. To me your newspaper is not
presenting fair and unbiased information. Instead it is slanting its
coverage in favor of the State Bar and its members.
I for one would challenge the State Bar of
South Dakota to openly debate the issue of judicial misconduct. Let's
have an honest and fair debate and let the people decide the issue. I
think all I am trying to convey to you is that the issue needs
addressing openly and honestly. I hope that you take my opinion into
account before any more misinformation is printed by one of your
newspapers. Thank you for your time.
.... I don't know how
long you have lived in South Dakota, but I lived there as a kid. The
Deadwood Lead prostitution was in full swing. The judges, the sheriff
and the police were all involved in a tolerance policy. I remember
some years ago that a young prosecuting attorney finally had the
balls to shut the whore houses down.
If anyone thinks that there
is not a problem with judges, they only have to look at Deadwood
and Lead to see what has happened in South Dakota in the past. When I
got out of the army in 1966 I went looking for an apartment in Lead.
I ran into the pine rooms. Was going to rent a room, but no one
answered the door. My brother had a good time with that one at my
expense. I didn't know it was a whore house. My brother caught the
prosecuting attorney of Strugis coming out of one of the rooms. The
prosecutor made a quick deal to leave my brother alone. (My brother
was always getting into fights).
Anytime anyone tries to
tell you that there has not been a problem with judges in South
Dakota, give them my phone number. I will set them
Thanks for the great letter to Dubow.
The Argus Leader, as well as the Rapid City Journal, seems to
have printed Barnett's rant as opinion, thereby relieving
themselves from any due diligence in checking his veracity.
The good news is that we have been afforded an equal amount of ink by
these newspapers to rebutt Barnett.
Check this coming Sunday's www.ArgusLeader.com (Click on "Letters") for our rebuttal,
which is below. Hope they don't edit it. I don't
think they will, as they can see there is a chance for bickering,
which they need to sell papers. (Of course it's already obvious which horse is
Barnett, were limited to 500 words. Gary Zerman and Ron
Branson contributed, but the Argus doesn't print more than one
person's name as author.
We are working on a great
pot of SD Judicial Accountability stew. In all fairness,
someone should tell Barnett and his gang what spices we still plan to
add! (Hooters invented what they call "Three Mile Island" hot
wings. I invented what I call "Chernobyl Chicken"!
Barnett needs to know we carry our spices in our
holsters. Let's cook!)
the Initiative, Mr. Barnett
By Bill Stegmeier, Treasurer,
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
What is Barnett smoking? First off, the Initiative prohibits
"stacking" the jury, let alone with the miscreants Barnett
envisions. Secondly, the Initiative does not authorize the
release of prisoners so they 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
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
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 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 that this group is comprised mostly of judges
and lawyers. Hey, wait a minute. That's like giving a
group of inmates badges, and telling them they're now guards!
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.
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
You'll be one step ahead of Mr.