The American Insurance Association (AIA) and the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC) said today that common sense triumphed in South Dakota with the sound defeat of Amendment E, the so-called "J.A.I.L. for Judges" initiative.
Early returns showed the amendment failing 90 percent to 10 percent, the joint statement from the two insurance trade groups said.
"The good people of South Dakota sent a clear message yesterday that the radical ideas in the J.A.I.L. proposal are not worth upsetting their state's entire civil justice system," said Steve Schneider, AIA vice president, Midwest Region. "Now, judges, people who serve on boards and commissions, and other public officials will be free to perform their work without fear of harassment or personal liability for making unpopular or unfavorable decisions."
NAMIC state affairs manager Joe Thesing said, "By rejecting Amendment E, South Dakota voters showed their support for a strong and independent judicial system, without which democracy cannot function. We are pleased the voters saw this proposal for what it was, an ill-conceived and illogical measure that would have discouraged community involvement and likely stunted economic growth."
Amendment E would have created a 13-member Special Grand Jury composed of voters and volunteers selected annually at random who would hear complaints against judges and determine if indictments were warranted. Supporters of Amendment E assumed that judicial immunity is absolute, and that citizens do not currently have recourse for addressing perceived judicial misconduct.
In South Dakota, Supreme Court judges and Circuit Court judges are elected in nonpartisan races and an appeals process exists that is augmented by a seven-member Judicial Qualifications Commission to review complaints and conduct disciplinary proceedings.
Opposition to Amendment E was strong and vocal. Earlier this year, the South Dakota Legislature overwhelmingly adopted a resolution urging voters to reject the initiative. More than 200 local governmental bodies, including city councils, school boards and county commissions, opposed Amendment E. More than 40 statewide organizations,
AIA, NAMIC, and other national groups all joined the "No on E" coalition formed earlier this year to combat the initiative. Last week, U.S. Sens. Tim Johnson (D) and John Thune (R), Rep. Stephanie Herseth (D), GOP congressional candidate Bruce Whalen, Gov. Mike Rounds (R), and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Billion issued a joint statement in opposition to Amendment E. Amendment E was the brainchild of Californian Ron Branson, a frequent filer of frivolous lawsuits and author of the Judicial Accountability Initiative Law (J.A.I.L.).
Branson brought his fringe campaign to South Dakota in 2005, and with the help of paid signature gatherers, convinced enough residents to sign petitions in support of the J.A.I.L. proposal, which became Amendment E on Tuesday's ballot.
The American Insurance Association represents 400 major insurance companies that provide all lines of property and casualty insurance and write more than $120 billion annually in premiums. The association is headquartered in Washington, D.C.
NAMIC members identifies itself as a national insurance trade association that accounts for 44 percent of the homeowners market, 38 percent of the automobile market, 39 percent of the workers' compensation market, and 31 percent of the commercial property and liability market. NAMIC headquarters is located in Indianapolis.
Source: AIA, NAMIC