To the Voice from the Frontier of Idiocy at the Columbus Dispatch:
Your editorial ("Get out of Jail") displays a failure in journalistic integrity, as well as clear cronyism. [You say], "If the constitutional amendment passes, residents who believe they were wronged by a judge's ruling or actions could sue. Judges generally have immunity from such lawsuits."
People can sue judges now. Unfortunately, no matter how grievous or unlawful the judge's actions against a private citizen, the judge can cry judicial immunity and the lawsuit is dismissed. (To any nation declaring itself to be a protector of human rights, the stench of this class inequity should cause it to rise with indignity and send in troops to restore civil rights.)
After JAIL is passed, judges will STILL have immunity. A person can try to sue them in court and judges can still cry immunity -- and the case will likely be dismissed. That person can then pursue the ruling to the appellate courts, which likely will continue to stand blindly behind their robed-brotherhood. Up to this point in time, whatever happens is all dependent on the jurists acting in accordance to the law.
At the end of this road, however, this citizen can now bring his case before this new Grand Jury. If, [after hearing both sides], it is determined that particular judge acted in deliberate violation 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, or any deliberate violation of the Constitutions of South Dakota or the United States, notwithstanding Common Law, or any other contrary statute—then that judge loses his [so-called privilege] of immunity and the case proceeds to trial.
There is nothing unfair about that. The judge would then be required to defend himself, at his own expense, just like anyone else who enters the courtroom. (Why should criminals receive both state-paid salary AND free legal defense?) If the judge proves, however, that he acted within the law (after all, Mr. Voice, you ARE assuming they've acted with integrity and honor), then the judge should prevail with probably a greater chance than the average pro se defendant in his courtroom.
Mr. Voice, you declare JAIL is unnecessary, since all states have measures to rein in wayward jurists. All states have measures against the common offences related to public safety on the highways - and yet each year, legislatures across the countries keep amending and adding new measures, because people (including judges) keep committing traffic offences, driving under the influence and/or recklessly and ultimately endangering the lives of innocent citizens. We believe that current state measures are insufficient to protect the damage to innocent citizens since NONE of the current state measures provide any compensation or relief to innocent citizens damaged by "wayward jurists". Worse, those measures provide no protection at all from black-robed criminal terrorists who have made JAIL necessary, at the expense of the good and the few.
Mr. Voice, you ask, "Could judges serve honestly and impartially if every ruling could mean the loss of their jobs?" Only a two-strike judge would live under this fear - much like the two-strike criminal. Our judicial system has seemed to feel that the three-strike law is both equitable and effective in keeping a certain measure of criminals from re-offending. It stands to reason that the same system is just for the jurist.
We know that there will be criminals who keep going back to their wayward behaviors—and there will be judges who also continue to their third strike. The truth is, we're a patient people. We don't mind that a judge is given opportunity to redeem himself, like anyone else. But accountability is still required. We've waited too many decades for the legal system to provide proper accountability. Now it's time for the People to act in accordance with their right.
As to the loss of their jobs, we, the People also do our jobs every day. If we violate our corporate laws, we have reason to fear loss of our jobs. If we perform our jobs with integrity and uphold the laws, we never have reason to fear a lawful termination. The same is true for any jurist who performs his duty as a lawful citizen in the manner described by legal procedure with the due diligence he expects of those who also stand before him.
Mr. Voice, you say under JAIL, "this would be a system ripe for abuse." How absurd! The system is already abused by those entrusted with its care. They have proved the maxim that power corrupts and that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
You may be right that only a conspiracy theorist could declare that the Ohio complaint procedure, as you describe it, consists of layers of processes in league with each other to keep corrupt incompetent judges on the bench. In fact, no conspiracy among the processes would be required if it works as you describe. .... With all the many layers (many consisting only of class peers), which ALL must agree to a proposed disciplinary action, the system makes it impossible for but a few to ever be held accountable to their peers for their actions. Accountability to the citizens damaged, [according to your conclusion], would never see the light of day.
You or I need only be judged guilty at a single level before being held accountable for our actions, but in the system you describe—after a counsel presents evidence to a panel, the panel decides whether it should go forward. The matter is heard again before another 3-person panel, this time consisting of members not in the judge's appellate district. If they find the judge guilty—he is not disciplined, but the matter is forwarded now to a very political 28-member board. If this board then agrees, the hearing finally goes before Ohio Supreme Court—the ultimate judges. Only at this level can the judge then be reprimanded for an action committed months ago and which few remember. Does any of this procedure provide relief to the damaged citizen? No.
Tell the truth, Mr. Voice! JAIL does not want to poke holes in the "tradition of an independent judiciary." This tradition you speak of was not proposed by our Founding Fathers, and is not to be found in our primary documents. This is not a tradition of the People or this country, but a self-serving cloak which has evolved over time to protect the Attorney/Judge Class from the just, equal application of this country's laws upon offences made while acting in an official capacity.
.... Our nation has had its War Between the States. South Dakota will now see its War Within the State. ALL men are subject to the laws. Therefore those who have postured themselves to the People as being the model of integrity, will now be made subject to it. No one is above the law. Independence from the laws of the state is treason.
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The Columbus Dispatch
Get out of JAIL
Initiative unnecessary; system already places checks
on judicial branch
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Allowing people to sue judges over unfavorable rulings could have grave consequences for the integrity of the judicial branch. But that's the trend that might sweep the country if a certain ill-conceived initiative is successful in a few states.
The Judicial Accountability Initiative Law, or JAIL, will be on the ballot in South Dakota in November 2006. If the constitutional amendment passes, residents who believe they were wronged by a judge's ruling or actions could sue. Judges generally have immunity from such lawsuits.
A special grand jury consisting of registered voters over the age of 30 would decide whether the claim has merit and whether the judge used flawed reasoning, disregarded evidence or acted unethically. If so, a judge could be subject to fines or jail time. Three strikes, and he's out of office.
In another strange provision, the legislature would have to find a home for the grand jury that is farther than 1 mile from any "judicial body," whatever that means.
This is completely unnecessary. All states have measures to rein in wayward jurists. Many state constitutions, including Ohio's, have provisions for the removal or impeachment of judges.
Along with South Dakota, supporters have set their sights on Nevada, Idaho and New Mexico in 2006. Chapters of JAIL supporters and versions of the amendment exist for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Two Californians, Ron Branson and Gary Zerman, crafted this initiative after a personal setback. Branson, in particular, tried in 1999 to take his fight with Los Angeles over a parking ticket all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The pair told The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee that victories in other states will "wake the sleeping giant" of Americans' resentment against judges and raise the $1 million to propose the issue successfully in California, their ultimate goal.
Just when you think you've seen the frontier of idiocy, someone finds more to conquer. This process would poke a hole in the tradition of an independent judiciary. That's one aspect of democracy that cannot be found in countries with dictatorial regimes.
Should every ruling be subject to the whims of 25 people? Could judges serve honestly and impartially if every ruling could mean the loss of their jobs? Under such a law, judges could be sued not only for such blatant violations as graft but also for highly subjective standards, such as "sophistry." * This would be a system ripe for abuse.
Further, America's system of checks and balances works. The right to appeal has been around for centuries.
And if a judge breaks the law, he's arrested, tried and punished. Think Donald S. McAuliffe, the former Fairfield County municipal judge who burned down his own house for the insurance money. He was sentenced to 17 years in federal prison.
In Ohio, if local or state judges consistently behave badly or make sketchy rulings, residents can vote them out of office. And if an Ohio judge violates the ethical standards set by the bar, anyone can file a grievance with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. According to this state's disciplinary counsel, Jonathan E. Coughlin, the other states have similar procedures.
The counsel relies on trained investigators, lawyers and its subpoena power. If a grievance has substance, the counsel presents evidence to a three-person panel at the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, which decides whether the case should go forward.
Then a separate three-person panel from the board, none of whom is from the judge's appellate district, hears the case and makes a recommendation for punishment. That finding goes for review in front of the entire 28-member board, made up of lawyers and lay people. If upheld, the decision is submitted to the Ohio Supreme Court, which either agrees or alters it.
This exhaustive procedure is funded by the bar-registration dues paid by all lawyers; no tax dollars are involved.
Only a conspiracy theorist would believe that all of those people involved in all of those processes are in league to keep corrupt and incompetent judges on the bench. Wherever this crackpot measure crops up, Americans should reject it.