TODAY'S DEBATE: J.A.I.L. AMENDMENT
October 12, 2006
Amendment E is on the South Dakota ballot for the Nov. 7 election. The initiative calls for the formation of a citizen's grand jury to review judicial decisions. Here are two perspectives on the issue.
FOR THE AMENDMENT
MIKE G. WAGNER
S.D. not holding judges accountable
Create a state of fear, and people will believe regardless of the facts.
Opponents of Amendment E state that others besides judges could be sued, but in actual practice the bodies listed by opponents already are sued. Opponents want to create a state of fear.
In Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union (1997), the Supreme Court ruled that "the vast democratic forum of the Internet" constitutes a free-speech zone where the government's ability to restrict expression is at its weakest.
But not in South Dakota, where a state judge ordered censorship of a Web site, southdakotagov.info, that supports Amendment E. The site's published corrupt judicial acts hurts their cause. File a complaint with the South Dakota Supreme Court, Judicial Quality Commission or the Bar, and they will ignore you. Constitutional rights are something you see on TV, not in South Dakota Courts.
The Supreme Court ruled that parenting is a fundamental right protected by the U.S. Constitution. In Troxel: "The liberty interest at issue in this case the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court."
Not in South Dakota family courts, where awarding one parent sole custody in the pursuit of child-support money boosts the state coffers. Big bonuses were awarded by the federal government in collection of child support to the state. Never mind that the practice of severely limiting or abolishing the noncustodial right to be part of the children's lives destroys parent-child bonds.
The Supreme Court has ruled that a constitutional right to testify "does not extend to testifying falsely." Also, "...the right to counsel includes no right to have a lawyer who will cooperate with planned perjury."
Most anyone having been subject to a South Dakota "Star Chamber," especially in family court, would disagree. Perjury happens all the time and is ignored when convenient for the courts.
SDCL 23A-27-18, regarding probation, states that a probationer is not to commit any state or federal crimes. But judges allow violations anyway. Judges ignore the law when they feel a need to.
42 U.S.C. § 408 is a federal crime, although using an ex-spouse's Social Security number is quite acceptable to South Dakota Judges. It happens all the time, while judges and law enforcement ignore it. Passing bad checks and using fake Social Security numbers do not concern judges, JQC and the South Dakota Bar, along with officials in Pierre. According to them, laws are guidelines, not laws.
Judges break the law, make new laws, ignore laws, violate parents' and children's rights and violate constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms because judges know they are not accountable, and the average citizen of South Dakota has nowhere to turn. If you have an actual grievance regarding a judge, you will be ignored under the present system.
Judges are ministers of their own prejudices and are presently unaccountable.
No money or influence no justice in South Dakota.
* * * * *
AGAINST THE AMENDMENT
MARTIN H. GALLANTER
Judicial system among world's best
I believe in judges. Actually, I believe in the judicial system, but the institution stands or falls on the men and women in black robes who preside every difficult day.
I know some judges right here in Sioux Falls. A couple of times a month, I eat lunch with a few. I see them with their families at concerts and charity affairs. One is a sensitive visual artist. Another is moved nearly to tears when he talks about the families that pass through his court destroyed by meth. I had beers in a local bar one St. Patrick's Day with a judge who blushed each time a passing lawyer referred to her as "your honor."
I believe in these judges from my town. They are caring, skilled people who left far more lucrative legal careers to serve. They wear robes for their community, to try to make life safer and better for those who obey the law and to dispense true justice to those who do not. I have no reason to believe the judges from other towns are any different.
Not all judges are noble. There are those who are corrupt, who defy the law and have their political agendas. I watched judges let murderers go free in Mississippi during the '60s and myself stood before a corrupt magistrate who sentenced me to jail because I refused to plead guilty. But I won on appeal, and the judge eventually went to prison when his corruption became public. Decades later, even some of the murderers have been brought back to a Southern courtroom and sent to prison.
The American judicial system stands among the best in the world. Though it sometimes lets the guilty free and from time to time punishes the innocent, the strengths far outweigh the flaws. When I worked for The Legal Aid Society, I watched underpaid public-service lawyers help thousands of poor people win their day in court. While it may be easier for the rich, the system does not belong to them alone.
I believe also in those life terms given to certain judges. Legal scholars freed from pressures and politics provide lots of surprises.
Earl Warren was the conservative governor of California before he was chosen for the Supreme Court. Republican presidents appointed the vast majority of the federal judiciary that seems to make so many Republican lawmakers unhappy.
But apparently the agendas of politicians fade in the presence of the law and in the hearts of judges appointed for life.
I had the honor of meeting the late then-retired Associate Justice William Brennan in his office at the Supreme Court. He was born and raised on the same streets of the same city as I.
That's who I met, a grown-up boy from Newark, N.J., who had a chance to contribute as he saw it to justice and history from his own heart, his own head and in the framework of the United States Constitution.
I'm not a lawyer, but I believe in judges.
Copyright 2006, Argus Leader
Mike G. Wagner, 46, of Yankton, works at a Yankton manufacturing company. Martin "Marty" Gallanter, 61, of Sioux Falls is chief development officer of Volunteers of America, Dakotas, and president of Mount Zion Congregation. The debate on Amendment E was part of a public forum hosted by the South Dakota League of Women Voters on October 9, 2006 at 7:00 p.m. in Zbornik Hall, Salsbury Science Center, University of Sioux Falls. From: Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, October 12, 2006. Reprinted in accordance with the "fair use" provision of Title 17 U.S.C. § 107 for a non-profit educational purpose.