South Dakota Voters Give Amendment E an “F”

By November 8, 2006Briefly Legal

The voters of South Dakota on Tuesday dramatically rejected Constitutional Amendment E, voting 89-11 against JAIL — the Judicial Accountability Initiative Law. Business leaders, educators, community leaders and the legal profession had fought against the measure, worrying that it would undermine the rule of law and invite excessive litigation from around the country.

[It] would have created a special grand jury of South Dakotans to review complaints against jurors, county commissioners, prosecutors, city councilors, board members and judges – in essence, those with judicial immunity.

Under the proposed amendment, the grand jurors would have been able to penalize those who have judicial immunity with fines, jail or removal of their public insurance coverage and retirement benefits.

Such consequences would prevent people from serving as jurors or running for office, creating a government gone amok, several voters said. “I thought it was stupid. It shouldn’t be on there,” said Chris Schwartz, 18, of Sioux Falls. “Nobody would be on a jury.”

The NAM and state manufacturers had voiced opposition to the measure for fear organizers would use South Dakota as a testing ground for a national, anti-business campaign. (The NAM’s news release is here.)

More from The Argus Leader:

Bill Stegmeier, the amendment’s sponsor, questioned the results. He said polls from earlier this year indicated far greater support for Amendment E. Stegmeier suggested there might be voter fraud.

“We will investigate it, and we will try to determine whether or not there is something we can do about the situation,” Stegmeier, a Tea business owner, said.

Perhaps the problem was in believing every local poll conducted by out-of-state operations. Like this one: If the results of a new scientific poll bear fruit in Tuesday’s election, South Dakotans will get rid of the immunity that protects judges from being sued for the decisions they make.

The poll, conducted for KELO-TV of Sioux Falls, showed that 51 percent of the respondents said they would vote for constitutional Amendment E, 40 percent were opposed and 9 percent undecided.

Research 2000 of Maryland conducted the random telephone polling of 600 likely voters from Monday through Wednesday. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.Some sort of conspiracy, no doubt.