Here at the National Association of Manufacturers, we believe in judicial accountability. Activist judges who ignore the clear directions of the policy-making branch of government — be it the county commission, the city council, the state legislature, or Congress — undermine the rule of law and allow an unpredictable punishment of businesses, or more importantly, of citizens for following the law.
The NAM supported the U.S. Supreme Court nominations of Judge Roberts (Engler testimony here, and on Judge Alito here) because they expressed a philosophy of judicial restraint. Of letting the laws rule. Of predictability. And, above all, of following the U.S. Constitution and its protection of Constitutional rights. Like property rights. And the First Amendment. Measures that apply in the states, not just federally.
So, yeah, the NAM would normally not weigh in on a state measure like Amendment E in South Dakota. But….it’s a terrible measure, and we’ll be explaining why in the days until election day. It has implications for the entire country. Hell holes…they welcome you.
Please, read on.
So business is on the side of judicial accountability, on the side of the rule of law. Which made us at least initially receptive, or at least agnostic, about the South Dakota initiative, Amendment E, known in the vernacular as Jail4Justices. This is an initiative that holds judges accountable by allowing a statewide grand jury to review their decisions, and punish these judges personally for decisions they reject.
Got that? A judge who rules against someone in a civil or criminal trial can be sued, as a
person, for his or her decision. A judge who decides you lost a case over the rights to your garage’s property line can go to prison for his disrespect for the law. Can lose his house.
But it’s not just judges. This initiated measure applies not just to judges, but to any citizen who uses his judgment on behalf of the public.
The South Dakota Attorney General opined that the initiated measure applies to most anyone who decides to volunteer for public service:
Amendment E would dissolve judicial immunity and allow lawsuits against judges as well as all South Dakota citizen boards, including county commissioners, school board members, planning and zoning board members, public utility commissioners, and professional licensing board members, as well as jurors and prosecutors. Who would want to volunteer for a library board if you could be sued and charged with a crime for making a decision someone didn’t like.”
Indeed. Who would perform their duties as a citizen if they could be sued, abused and sent to prison for doing so?
There’s lots more here to ponder, and we’ll post some more in the month ahead. We’ve watched some of the pro-initiative advocacy videos at the Jail4Judges site, and have to say, well, resentment is not policy.