FAQ

South Dakota Judical Accountability

Q: Why do we need Amendment E?
A: Unfortunately, judicial misconduct is widespread. People’s rights are violated daily in South Dakota courtrooms, and in fact, all across America. The problem is, right now there is no effective way to hold the abusing judge accountable.
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Q: Why can’t we just “vote out” the bad judges?
A: Because we have no way of finding out who they are! The only people who have knowledge of bad judges are those who were victimized by the judge in court. There is no way for those people to effectively share their experiences with a sufficient number of voters in order to kick the rascals out.
Q: Doesn’t the South Dakota Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) discipline bad judges?
A: That is what they’re supposed to do, but they don’t. Instead of disciplining wayward judges, they cover for them. And the reason they cover for the judges is because the Commission is nothing more than a “good ol’ boys club”! It’s comprised of two judges, three lawyers, and two of the Governor’s politically connected cronies! There is no way these guys are going to discipline one of their buddies.
Q: Why have I not heard of cases of judicial misconduct here in South Dakota?
A: The JQC meets to hear complaints from people who feel their rights were violated by a judge, but their meetings are always held “hush-hush” behind closed doors. The public never hears a word about the outcome of complaints filed against judges. The complaints are almost always dismissed without the public ever knowing. Do YOU, the citizen, get special treatment when someone files a complaint against you? Criminal or civil, your name, along with the charges – appear in the press. Why should a judge’s misconduct be treated any different?
Q: How will Amendment E make judges accountable for misconduct?
A: Judges enjoy immunity from being sued for wrongdoing. Amendment E creates a Special Grand Jury made up of ordinary South Dakota citizens, who will hear complaints of judicial misconduct. If the Special Grand Jury finds that your complaint has merit, it will remove the offending judge’s immunity and allow you to sue the judge for violating your rights.
Q: Will Amendment E expose school boards and county commissions to being sued just for doing their job?
A: First off, nobody gets sued for “just doing their job”. People get sued for wrongdoing. But the fact of the matter is that these boards and commissions can already be sued, and do get sued quite often. Amendment E does not affect these boards and commissions in the least.
Q: Our Legislators claim that Amendment E will expose the individual members of these boards and commissions to being sued. Is this true?
A: NO! The fact is that county commissioners and school board members make decisions as a group, never as individuals. We have already established that Amendment E has no effect whatsoever on these groups, let alone their members. Why not send a registered letter to your legislators asking for the legal documentation to back up their claim? You will find that they can’t provide any. This is just the usual scare tactic that politicians use when their power is threatened.
Q: If Amendment E passes, will bank credit dry up overnight?
A: This ridiculous scare tactic was hatched by bankers who presently rely on not so honest judges in order to take advantage of the “little guy”. Judicial accountability spells the end to their gravy train. Developers grabbing your land using the courts and Eminent Domain. Same goes for the insurance industry, of which banks are heavily involved. They would have to deal honestly when paying claims especially personal injury, workman’s comp and property claims. They are terrified that if accountability comes to the judiciary, it may very well come to the banking and insurance industry next and force them to be honest!
Q: I have heard that if I serve on a jury, Amendment E will allow a criminal to sue me because I helped to convict him. Is this true?
A: NO! Amendment E has specific and limited jurisdiction. It can only address certain classes of judicial misconduct. As a jury member, you cannot possibly engage in the types of judicial misconduct covered by the Amendment. On the contrary, Amendment E will actually restore a lost right jury members once enjoyed. And that is the right to vote your conscience, as opposed to how the judge wants you to vote. Amendment E will ensure that if a law is being misapplied, or is a bad law, the jury may vote their conscience and overrule even the judge and the legislators by acquitting. This is called Jury Nullification. As it is now, judges prevent juries from learning they have this right. Amendment E will hold a judge accountable should he deny you your rights as a jury member. For more information on the rights of juries, visit www.FIJA.org
Q: Who was behind putting Amendment E on the ballot, and what was their motivation?
A: Amendment E was “sponsored” by long-time South Dakota resident and businessman Bill Stegmeier. Mr. Stegmeier and some 80 other concerned South Dakotans from across the state collected 46,800 signatures which qualified Amendment E for the ballot. Their motivation? They believe that no man should be above the law, especially judges. A judge takes an oath to uphold the law and to treat people fairly, but often times doesn’t. Thus the need for Amendment E.
Q: What will Amendment E cost the taxpayers?
A: Nobody knows for sure the actual level of judicial misconduct that is taking place here in South Dakota. So the cost to curb the misconduct is also unknown. The main expense to Amendment E is paying the Special Grand Jury members. But they only get paid when they convene to hear complaints alleging judicial misconduct. The opposition to Amendment E claims that there is very little judicial misconduct going on here in South Dakota. So, if that is the case, the Special Grand Jury would seldom meet and the Amendment would cost the taxpayers very little.
Q: Who is against judicial accountability?
A: Well, other than the judges themselves, it’s the usual list of characters. It’s your attorney, who is not personally effected by judicial misconduct and actually profits from it. When a judge violates your rights in court, your attorney gets to do more work on your behalf. He loves that job security! He is also just a little concerned that Amendment E will eventually lead to accountability, integrity, and honesty being forced upon his own profession! Oh, my. It’s the special interest groups like the bankers and the insurance industry, who rely on the judges to back them up when they chose to take advantage of “the little guy” and deny your claims. It’s your South Dakota legislators, who deplore the idea of the citizens having any sort of oversight over government. To them, we are mere peons, and should leave governance to them without our consent. Such arrogance!

Let’s make South Dakota the first State in the Union to bring back Judicial Accountability! If you have other questions about Amendment E, please contact us!