New initiative in South Dakota holds judges accountable
September 16, 2005
An organization by the name of J.A.I.L. (Judicial Accountability Initiative Law) is shaking-up the status quo in South Dakota.
What is happening in the Mount Rushmore State may end up being of great benefit to all of us unless you live in a state with higher quality judiciary than is apparent in most other states.
We’ve all heard the stories on cable news (you’d never hear them on network news). A man rapes and kidnaps an underage girl and is sentenced to a few months in prison (despite his criminal history).
Children die because social workers say they have checked on foster kids in the system but, in reality have not seen them in months even over a year. Does anyone pay for it? Too often, no.
In my home state of Colorado, a judge has dismissed complaints before discovery was even completed. In one lawsuit filed by a woman whose television interview by a major network was poorly edited, the words that came out of the woman’s mouth on national television placed her in violation of the Patriot Act. She could have been put in prison for what she did not say. The edits, however, made it appear she did say. If this is not a serious lawsuit deserving of discovery, I do not know what is.
This same judge awarded joint custody of a child to a woman who has no legal connection to the child in what appears to be an attempt to get around Colorado’s ban on same-sex adoptions. In that same case, this judge prohibited the birth mother from teaching her child certain religious beliefs about homosexuality.
In another case, this judge mocked a mother seeking sole custody of her children by asking, "Why does it bother you so much that he watches pornography?" (referring to her ex-husband). Maybe it was because the father was watching the porn online with his very young son and appears to have (how do I say this gracefully?) "relieved" himself during the documented (by a third-party witness) episode.
This guy has been so bad that State Representative Greg Brophy appealed to the State’s House Judiciary Committee to impeach the judge. The Committee voted against the impeachment, 8-3.
How can what J.A.I.L. is doing in South Dakota help Coloradans or, in your state? If J.A.I.L. is passed there, many people will start getting petitions signed elsewhere.
What does the South Dakota J.A.I.L. initiative achieve if it is put on the ballot and passed?
It does precisely what its title indicates (Judicial Accountability Initiative Law). It holds the judiciary accountable for decisions not in compliance with state law. It says, "No immunity shall extend to any judge of this State for any 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 Constitution of South Dakota or the United States, notwithstanding Common Law, or any other contrary statute."
The initiative then goes on to explain that a thirteen-member Special Grand Jury with statewide jurisdiction having power to judge both law and fact shall be established. To present the facts to the Special Grand Jury, funds will be made available to retain non-governmental advisors, special prosecutors and investigators.
A letter written to a columnist for the Argus Leader newspaper in Sioux Falls, S.D. asks reasonable questions: "Can you think of any reason why a man or woman, just because he or she is a judge, should be above the law? Can you think of any reason why anyone should not be accountable for willful and/or malicious acts in office?"
The Argus Leader has obviously taken a "we like the status quo" approach to the J.A.I.L. initiative. Editorials have been written and answered. The newspaper recently did a poll asking its readers: "Should people unhappy with a judge’s ruling have the authority to appeal to a grand jury for the right to sue the judge?"
The author of the J.A.I.L. initiative, Ron Branson, says, "We are supposed to be a nation of laws and not of men. To be able to appeal a decision because one is 'unhappy' with the decision is to convert our laws into emotional feelings, opening the door to every kind of whimsical appeal."
Branson points out that even though the newspaper’s question totally misstates what the J.A.I.L. initiative does, 49.2% of the people polled said "Yes" to the question. He says with equal fervor that he hopes the people of South Dakota are not so ignorant as to vote to totally overturn a system based on established law. That is not the objective of J.A.I.L. The purpose is to get the judiciary to stop writing laws from the bench by making legal decisions not supported by the law.
"My problem is when judges act outside and beyond their discretion. For instance, passing laws from the bench (judicial activism) is not within their jurisdiction," Branson says. He points out that just as umpires do not have the right to change the rules of the game, or apply different rules to different players, neither do members of the judiciary.
"My problem is with the concept that judges should be protected from liability from wrong-doing by their own self-made immunity when they choose to commit crimes, or choose to disregard laws and make up new laws as they see fit. I have a problem with judges being above the law when they are to be under the law."
Those are the things, Branson believes, that South Dakotans will have the chance to correct in a legal system that many Americans feel has gone astray from the powers and purpose given it by the people.
I have read the J.A.I.L. initiative and believe it is written in a way that simply holds judges liable when they willingly, knowingly and deliberately choose to violate the Constitution and the laws they have sworn to uphold. Though the preceding words are taken from a letter written by Branson to the Argus Leader columnist, they so totally represent my feelings after reading the initiative, I hope Ron Branson will not object to my use of them.
Many of my readers have expressed concerns to me about judicial activism and lack of accountability. If you are one of them, you can contact Ron Branson at VictoryUSA@jail4judges.org. Branson and his wife traveled to South Dakota, helping get signatures on petitions.
It is amazing what a few dedicated people can achieve. Whenever people tell me the future of America is out of their hands, I always suggest they find 100 people to walk door-to-door getting a petition signed that will get a particular issue on the ballot.
The South Dakotans involved in this effort are doing just that and they are taking control of their own futures in the process.
God bless individualism! It’s what makes America great!
Copyright 2005, Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall
Marylin Barnewall is an expert on banks and banking and a contributor to American Banker and Bank Marketing Magazine. This article first appeared in the Grand Junction Free Press and is reprinted from: WorldNetDaily, September 16, 2005, http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=46348, accessed 09/09/06. Reprinted here in accordance with the "fair use" provision of Title 17 U.S.C. § 107 for a non-profit educational purpose.