Those Wacky Voters

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There’s an interesting ballot initiative for South Dakotans in November. It’s called “JAIL for Judges.” The idea is that if you’re involved in a legal proceeding — criminal or civil, as plaintiff or defendant — and you don’t like the outcome, you can sue the judge. That’s right: sue the judge.

You might suspect the trial lawyers are behind this, but you’d be wrong. The man behind it is a conspiracy theorist with a history of legal difficulties and quixotic court cases. He also happens to not be a resident of South Dakota; that was just the easiest (which is to say, the only) place he could get his initiative on the ballot.

He says it’s a question of democratic accountability. Judges, he says, have to be accountable to someone. In this case, that someone would be a special grand jury with rules admittedly designed to favor the plaintiff (that is, the person suing the judge). This neatly overlooks the fact that judges in SD, like in many states, are elected, and therefore already democratically accountable.

One might think this is one of those nutty propositions that show up on ballots from time to time, only to garner about 10% of the vote. One would be wrong. This thing is actually polling as a winner. If it wins, its backer says he has a multi-millionaire who’ll finance efforts to get it on the ballot in other states.

Anyway, I thought I’d blog it and see what people think.

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12 Responses to “Those Wacky Voters”

  1. Michael Lasley Says:

    Does he want to sue juries as well?

  2. juvenal_urbino Says:

    I’m not sure. The radio report I heard did mention that, but it wasn’t clear to me whether that was in the initiative or not.

    It’s probably explained on their website, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to go there.

  3. Michael Lasley Says:

    And doesn’t the appeals process cover the misconduct aspect?

  4. Al Sturgeon Says:

    I suspect this will be one of those cases where the media provides a real service (though I could be wrong). You know, easily-swayed folks sign propagandized petitions at their door and answer slanted survey questions on the phone, but once they learn the cause is led by a nutjob in the local newspapers and tv news, they won’t turn out to vote for it.

    Maybe.

  5. juvenal_urbino Says:

    I dunno, Al. There’s an awful lot of resentment against judges among certain segments of the voting public.

  6. juvenal_urbino Says:

    There are several procedures for dealing with judicial misconduct, but they all involve other judges, and judges are who this guy fundamentally does not trust.

  7. Sandi Says:

    What Michael said. There are accountability measures in place for judges. One of them is the appeals process (duh). Another is that each state has a judicial performance commission (or something similar) where you can report judicial misconduct. Now, my understanding is that these often don’t do much, but there is a process. If judges can be sued every time someone doesn’t like the decision they make — which, let’s face it, is at least 50% of the time by definition — that would impair their ability to do their jobs. Bizarre.

  8. Michael Lasley Says:

    Also seems that this would hinder a “fair and impartial” trial, if the judge is worried about which side is going to sue her.

  9. Michael Lasley Says:

    Could the state supreme court rule that this is unconstitutional, if they needed to?

  10. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Presumably they would have jurisdiction, at least, to do that, but I don’t know if they would have grounds. One shudders to think what might be in the SD constitution.

    Also seems that this would hinder a “fair and impartial” trial, if the judge is worried about which side is going to sue her.

    Yup. And if it applies to juries as well, heh, nobody is going to show up for jury duty in SD. And when they don’t, what’s the judge going to do? Fine them? They’ll just sue him/her.

    Besides all that, the whole thing just makes no sense. I mean, okay, so this new superjudicial process is set up to hold judges accountable. Who holds the officials in the supercourt accountable? Do people, including judges, have a right to sue the supercourt?

    It’s an infinite regress.

  11. Terry Austin Says:

    Can I sue Judge Reinhold for being a close talker?

  12. Terry Austin Says:

    And can I sue Jose Reyes for somehow being even more annoying than Li’l Davy Eckstein?

    Or Harold Ford and Bob Corker for somehow being more annoying than cockroaches?

    And when are you people gonna blog about Wal*Mart’s $4 prescription plans?

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