and the
Judicial Accountability Initiative Law (J.A.I.L.)


Stegmeier's Testimony to the State Affairs Committee of the South Dakota Senate, Pierre, South Dakota
Prepared Statement in Response to Legislative Resolution No. 1004
February 10, 2006

Good morning Mr. Chairman and Committee members.

My name is Bill Stegmeier, and I am the Sponsor of Amendment E.

Legislators pass laws. That's their job. That's what we pay them to do. That is what they have done from the very beginning. So there can be no doubt that legislators should be experts at reading and understanding legal language.

Amendment E, the Judicial Accountability Initiative Law (J.A.I.L.), which will be on the ballot in 2006, was not written just so legal experts could understand it. It was written in plain language so that all who read it may understand it. Therefore, we cannot give our legislators the benefit of the doubt of not understanding it.

Yet you, our South Dakota Legislature, have passed, or are presently attempting to pass, House Concurrent Resolution 1004 against the South Dakota J.A.I.L. Amendment, primarily based on your accusation that the Amendment will put all public servants at risk of being sued for doing nothing more than their jobs.

This assertion is ludicrous on its face, considering that there are at least three stumbling blocks to frivolous litigation presently in place, or will be in place with the passage of Amendment E.

(1) Anyone can already sue anyone, even if frivolous. It happens all the time. But genuine frivolous lawsuits are quickly thrown out of court by summary judgment. And no, the Amendment will not "prohibit summary judgment." It will, however, encourage judges to be careful not to use "summary judgment" unreasonably.

(2) The Amendment addresses only the Judiciary and specifically "judicial immunity." Words mean what they mean, providing we all use the same common English dictionaries. The Amendment doesn't say anything about "County Commission Immunity," or "City Council Immunity," or "School Board Immunity." No, it only addresses "Judges, and all other persons claiming to be shielded by judicial immunity."

Once again, words, such as the adjective "judicial" have a meaning that is not subject to this Legislative body's — dare I say — caviler interpretation. "Is" means "is," and "judicial" means "judicial."

(3) And the third stumbling block to the frivolous litigation that this Legislature envisions will wreck havoc and even anarchy on our system of justice, is the soon-to-be-created Special Grand Jury, comprised of honest, upright, common-sense citizens selected at random from the voting ranks of ordinary South Dakota citizen/voters!

Yes, Gentlemen and Gentle Ladies, Amendment E, whether you like it or not, returns the ownership of government back to the People, just as our Founding Fathers had originally designed.

We must ask ourselves: why have our state legislative leaders chosen to push this Resolution? We must ask ourselves: why is it that our legislators see a need to protect a judge who engages in the misconduct that the Amendment addresses?

The misconduct covered by the Amendment is the following:

  1. Deliberate violation of law.
  2. Fraud or conspiracy.
  3. Intentional violation of due process.
  4. Deliberate disregard of material facts.
  5. Judicial acts without jurisdiction.
  6. Blocking of a lawful conclusion of a case.
  7. Any deliberate violation of the Constitution of South Dakota or the United States.

From our perspective, the office of Judge should be the most respected position in our society. In our form of government, the Judiciary, the third branch of government, exists to protect all of us from the excesses of the Executive and Legislative branches.

So why does this Legislature feel the need to shield our South Dakota judges from being held accountable to those seven awful acts of misconduct that I just itemized?

Now let's take a look at the admitted reasoning as set forth in Resolution HR 1004 designed by, I suppose, the leadership of this Legislature for the purpose of encouraging the good People of this state to vote against the Judicial Accountability Amendment.

The Resolution states:

  • Amendment E was drafted by a resident of California.

Even if this were true, if a California resident found a cure for cancer, would the Legislature be against South Dakotan's using it? The automobile wasn't invented in South Dakota, but all of our legislators use at least one. Electricity wasn't invented in South Dakota either.

The Resolution states:

  • Petitions were circulated by paid, out-of-state persons.

This is simply a lie constructed by politicians. In today's fast-paced world with the time limitations imposed by law for the collection of signatures, we contracted with a company whose business it is to collect signatures for petition drives. That's the way the world works today. That company generally hired and paid South Dakotan's to collect signatures. Plus, we had many volunteers. We even had a few volunteers who felt they had such a vested interested in stopping absolute judicial immunity that they came from their state to help us. We consider them to be friends and neighbors. Don't our legislators have friends who live in other states?

The Resolution states:

  • The people who supported J.A.I.L. in California failed to get enough signatures to get it on the ballot.

Yep, they weren't able to do it several years ago. So what? What's that have to do with the People of South Dakota, and this South Dakota November 2006 ballot issue?

The Resolution states:

  • South Dakota voters were told that Amendment E simply provided for a remedy for intentional judicial misconduct.

Well, that's exactly what it would do, and on an individual basis. Something that your supposed existing remedy, the Judicial Qualifications Commission — or as some call it, the "Good ol' Boys Club" — does not do. And neither does removing a judge from office, nor the appeals process, provide a remedy for anyone damaged by a crooked judge who did one or more of the above seven awful things. That's the reason I sponsored Amendment E, so the People will finally have a remedy to individual judicial misconduct.

The Resolution states:

  • If approved, Amendment E would allow lawsuits against all citizen boards.

Not true, UNLESS those citizen boards are claiming to be within the "Judicial System" and can somehow be accused of violating those seven awful things, mentioned above, that Amendment E addresses.

Amendment E specifically says the definition of a judge is: "a justice, judge, magistrate judge, judge pro-tem, and all other persons claiming to be shielded by judicial immunity." In other words, Amendment E would allow lawsuits against everyone who clams to be above the law. What's wrong with that?

Why do you legislators want to protect ANYONE who claims to be above the law?

The Resolution states:

  • Amendment E would authorize and encourage jury nullification in South Dakota.

Well what is jury nullification? It is nothing more then the right of jurors to determine if the law should be applied in a specific case. All juries — yes, even in South Dakota — already have this right. They are just not told of their rights by judges like they used to be told back in the 1800s. That doesn't mean they don't still have that right to judge the law itself, as well as the facts of the case.

Cops have this right. As a simple example: if a cop stops someone for speeding and finds out he is on the way to an emergency, he often will determine right there on the spot if the emergency is valid, and if so, not issue a ticket or arrest the person. It is the same sort of discretion that jurys already have. Amendment E doesn't give juries any additional power that they don't already posess.

The Resolution states:

  • It would prohibit summary judgment, a legal remedy currently available and used to quickly and inexpensively rid courts of frivolous cases.

Horse feathers! Summary judgment is a legitimate procedure used by courts to arrive at a lawful conclusion of a frivolous lawsuit — and will remain so even after Amendment E is passed.

The Resolution states:

  • Amendment E would permit convicted felons to sue the people who convicted them.

Have the authors of this Resolution been smoking those same horse feathers? Refer to the seven awful judicial misconduct things I spoke about, which the Amendment is designed to address. If you were convicted as a result of one of them, wouldn't you want to be able to sue those who violated your rights?

Thank you.

— END —

Following his address, Stegmeier advised the State Affairs Committee of his willingness to respond to their written questions, and then he withdrew from the proceedings.  From: The J.A.I.L. News Journal, Los Angeles, California, February 10, 2006.  Reprinted in accordance with the "fair use" provision of Title 17 U.S.C. § 107 for a non-profit educational purpose.


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