J.A.I.L. News Journal
Los Angeles, California December 14, 2006
The Inherent Right of ALL People to Alter or Reform Government.
The Right Upon Which All Other Rights Depend
“Editorializing on a
State Ballot at its Worst”
Are we to believe that
under robes of black,
judges are truly
angels of white?
-- Neil McIver
Vol. 8, No. 12 — November, 2006
From 67% Favored to 90% Opposed
South Dakota Ballot Surprise 67% favored to
St. John's Campus Annapolis, Maryland
An editorial by Neil McIver
Perhaps the biggest ballot issue in the country for patriots this past election was South Dakota's Amendment E. This would have modified the SD Constitution to mandate the creation of a special grand jury to review judicial conduct and when warranted, refer a judge for trial for a suspect action or ruling. Three convictions, called "strikes", against a judge would mandate removal from office and a reduction of retirement pay.
With 46,800 valid signatures putting Amendment E on the ballot (state population is about 771,000 by 2004 figures), its many foes had reason to be concerned. They ranged from banking institutions to a number of corporate businesses that are satisfied with their present degree of influence and control over the courts. In a rare lobbying twist, even the SD legislature passed a resolution urging citizens to vote
against the measure.
Enter State Attorney Larry Long, upon whom the duty falls to craft the ballot wording of Amendment E as it is to appear to voters on election day. Armed with a new state law passed specifically for the event, Long not only describes Amendment E in persuasive language, but presents its likely consequences.
“Citizens serving on juries” he begins in listing the “judges” that the ballot targets (“judges” come sixth and last on the list). “Their decisions may be reversed on appeal, or they may be removed from office for misconduct or by election.” Long continues with commentary having nothing to do with the proposed amendment, except (could it be?) as argument against its necessity.
After pointing out the lack of any current financial penalty, Long writes “This allows them to do their job without fear of threat or reprisal from either side.” Of course, this comment does not describe the amendment but is purely Long's favorable opinion of the benefit of the current law.
Finally Long describes the amendment (and remember, this is all how it appeared on the actual SD ballot):
“The proposed amendment to the State Constitution would allow thirteen volunteers to expose these decision makers to fines and jail, and strip them of public insurance coverage and up to one-half of their retirement benefits, for making decisions which break rules defined by the volunteers. Volunteers are drawn from those who submit their names and registered voters.”
Break rules “defined by the volunteers?” JAIL is about the “laws” broken by judges, not volunteer-defined rules! And who are the “volunteers?” A majority of South
Dakotans are registered voters, but Long lists them second to “those who submit their names.” Submit their names to whom? The voter stands, pen - or perhaps mouse - in hand, perplexed in wonder.
But Long isn't finished: “If approved, the proposed amendment will likely be
challenged in court and may be declared to be in violation of the US Constitution. If so, the State may be required to pay attorneys fees and costs.” Editorializing on a state ballot at its worst.
How did voters react? According to state figures, on November 7th the amendment was defeated by about 295,000 to 35,600. If this count is correct, then it means 11,000 fewer people voted for the amendment than had signed the petition to put it on the ballot in the first place!!!
A 60-40 victory is commonly considered a landslide. A 70-30 victory is very rare and victory very much foreseen and often taken with a yawn. Victories on the order of 80-20 are unheard of except in the most unusual situations where candidates run with no more than the formality of opposition. But with 90-10 something is seriously wrong.
Was the JAIL ballot initiative so unpopular as to be a lost cause from the start? Not according to a Zogby poll. Less than 2 months before the election the following question was put to 504 respondents:
Amendment E called the Judicial Accountability Amendment will be on the ballot this November. The amendment would allow the creation of a citizen's oversight committee or special grand jury which would hear complaints of alleged judicial misconduct against judges. If a judge is found guilty three times of having engaged in
judicial misconduct, he or she would be removed from office and could never serve in any judicial capacity in South Dakota again. Will you vote for Amendment E or
will you vote against Amendment E?
Results: 67% in favor, 20% opposed with the balance undecided -- well over the landslide benchmark in “favor” and also in line with the extraordinary petition support for the amendment (6% of all South Dakotans).
Subsequent polls showed favor dropping marginally in the days before the election, but still in the 55% favorable range. So how did it drop from 55/67% in favor to 90% opposed? Logically, one of two things must have happened. Either the loaded ballot wording carried a huge amount of weight among voters, OR the vote was stolen. Is ‘stolen' too conspiratorial a term? Mind you, this was not a relatively
narrow 55-45 defeat, but a 90-10 defeat.
The amendment defined a judge as “Justice, judge, magistrate judge, judge pro tem, and all other persons claiming to be shielded by judicial immunity” a definition
from which Long somehow managed to make citizens serving on juries the principle targets. Exactly how such a citizen jurist could be “permanently removed from office” and deprived of his “judicial retirement,” as required after a 3rd conviction is something where Long is, well, short on explanation.
What can we learn from this? If, in addition to the ballot wording fraud, vote counting fraud was also involved, then there may not be much that can be done. Mayoral candidate Randy Wooten was left to ponder this reality last month as he was informed by the City Hall of his small Arkansas town that his campaign was so bad he failed to win a single vote. He contests the finding, as he stubbornly maintains that he did indeed vote for himself. The 18-18 tie between the other two
candidates was scheduled for a run-off election, though it's unclear why City Hall expected anyone to switch sides the second time around. Votes were collected on a never-to-be-trusted electronic voting system, quite possibly the Diebold model that leaves no paper trail and for which a vote-counting virus had already been demonstrated on some televised shows. A virus which, if well written, would neatly delete itself when voting was completed, destroying all evidence of its handiwork.
Fraud possibilities aside, proponents of Amendment E promise to be back in 2 years, and they are expected to rewrite it to address Long's slanted claims. Perhaps with narrower language they can limit the damage that the ballot writer's pen can impose.
Careful consideration needs to be given to the propaganda attacks that such
And money. Opponents of Amendment E ranged far and wide including major financial businesses, lawyers groups and many other interests that have enough
endearment to the existing judicial machinations to make sizeable contributions to fund an anti-JAIL campaign, which might explain the modest drop to "only" 55%
approval in polls shortly before the election. Campaign funding was stacked 10-1 against the amendment.
Of course judicial accountability is needed and sorely lacking. It seems to be the only occupation where accountability for wrongdoing or poor performance is
somehow considered spiteful, cruel, or mean, as though we should feel sorry for the performers. Long claimed judges may be removed from office for misconduct under present law, but how often does that happen? If SD judges are comparable to their federal counterparts, then Long should also have noted that in its 215-year history, only 12 federal judges have ever been impeached, and of those, only 9 were convicted or resigned prior to trial. Are we to believe that under robes of black, judges are truly angels of white?
All humans need accountability and here's hoping South Dakotans who've fought so hard and well for this initiative will rise again.
South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like whitened sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are full of dead
men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Thus ye also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
Noah Webster's 1833 Bible, Matthew ch. 23:27-28
J.A.I.L.- Judicial Accountability Initiative Law - href="../../State_Chapters/dc/DC_initiative.doc" title="http://www.jail4judges.org/">www.jail4judges.org
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