Saturday, September 23, 2006

Amendment E Poll

Dakota Voice is reporting on a supposed poll commissioned by Bill Stegmeier of South Dakota Judicial Accountability that shows that 67 percent of South Dakotans would vote for Amendment E. The Zogby International poll that is cited in the article claims to show widespread support for the amendment across the whole political spectrum of likely voters in November. There is no actual link to the poll itself nor did a search on the Zogby site provide a link to the results.

If the poll actually was conducted and if the results reported are in fact true, one only needs to see the wording of the question asked to figure out why.
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?
Looking at the question asked, one important fact regarding Amendment E is missing from the question, nowhere does it include the fact that this amendment goes much farther than judges. Though the Amendment E folks continue to highlight how this will allow a citizen committee to oversee supposed judicial misconduct, they refuse to include in any of their literature or advertising on how it also affects persons who sit on school boards, county commissions and other citizen boards.

Stegmeier continues to claim that this isn't the case and went so far as to challenge Attorney General Larry Long's ballot explanation that included the following wording.
Citizens serving on juries, school boards, city councils, county commissions, or in similar capacities, and prosecutors and judges, are all required to make judicial decisions. Their decisions may be reversed on appeal, or they may be removed from office for misconduct or by election. However, they cannot be made to pay money damages for making such decisions. This allows them to do their job without fear of threat or reprisal from either side.

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.

The proposed amendment is retroactive. The volunteers may penalize any decision-maker still alive for decisions made many years ago.

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.

A vote “Yes” will change the Constitution.

A vote “No” will leave the Constitution as it is.
Judge Max Gors ruled against Stegmeier's complaint on the ballot explanation stating that Larry Long had in fact described the amendment impartially.
Excepting use of the word “volunteers,” the attorney general’s ballot statement is 1) objective and 2) clear and simple and it states 3) the purpose and effect and 4) the legal consequences of the proposed JAIL constitutional amendment. The word “volunteers” should be replaced by the words “special grand jurors” and then the ballot statement is good to go.
And herein lies the one and only chance that the J.A.I.L.er's have to win in November. Their propaganda blitz in the media and with their polling never includes the fact that this proposed amendment goes much farther than sitting judges and does in fact include any body that claims to be shielded by judicial immunity. Those that meet that criteria as defined in Amendment E include, as ruled by Judge Gors, any decision maker who exercises judicial functions: petit jurors, grand jurors, school boards, county commissions, city councils, professional and occupational licensing boards, prosecutors and other attorneys.

If you noticed the poll question used by Zogby, that fact isn't mentioned and I have a feeling that many voters in South Dakota are unaware of this as well which could explain the popularity of the amendment in the cited poll.

While many South Dakotans may be unaware of how far reaching this bill is, most governmental bodies are which is evident by the fact that numerous cities, counties and school boards have passed resolutions in opposition to the proposed legislation.

I would be curious to hear the results if the same 500 South Dakotans were asked the following question which more accurately depicts Amendment E.
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, grand jurors, school boards, county commissions, city councils, professional and occupational licensing boards, prosecutors and other attorneys. If a judge, grand jurors, school boards, county commissions, city councils, professional and occupational licensing boards, prosecutors and other attorneys are found guilty of having engaged in misconduct, he or she would be removed from office and could never serve in any judicial capacity in South Dakota again and would be subject to fines and jail, and strip them of public insurance coverage and up to one-half of their retirement benefits if found guilty by a group of 13 citizens with no legal experience. Will you vote for Amendment E or will you vote against Amendment E?
Does any one suspect as I do that the results would be significantly different?

There is much more on Amendment E including the mis-information and half truths being brought forward by the J.A.I.Ler's that all voters should be made aware of before November so I would strongly recommend that everyone go to the No on E site to find out exactly what this legislation is all about.

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