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On ballot explanations and statements

So the South Dakota Supreme Court affirms the prior decision that only a minor change need be made in the ballot explanation for Amendment E, the J.A.I.L. amendment. Although brief, the decision is interesting in a couple respects.

First, it appears the only issue presented was whether the explanation should talk about deliberate actions. This confirms my prediction that deliberate is a new smokescreen upon which J.A.I.L.ers are going to rely heavily. That it is a new approach is reflected in the statement submitted by South Dakota J.A.I.L.er-in-Chief Bill Stegmeier in support of the measure that appears in the pamphlet the Secretary of State’s office is putting out about the ballot issues. That statement, which state law requires the Secretary of State to obtain from both proponents and opponents, makes no mention of deliberate or intentional conduct. Instead, it talks about a judge’s “courtroom procedures” or “courtroom behavior.”

Stegmeier’s statement also relates to the second interesting aspect of the Supreme Court decision. The Court specifically noted that Stegmeier “has abandoned the argument that Constitutional Amendment E applies only to judges.” Yet that isn’t what Stegmeier says in the pamphlet. He wrote:

Amendment E will not affect school boards, county commissions, and jury members. The Amendment is written to only address the unreasonable “doctrine of judicial immunity”, which presently allows for unchecked judicial misconduct.

As has been noted repeatedly on this blog and the courts have now clearly stated, judicial immunity does apply to jury members and to certain actions of school boards and county commissions. Since Stegmeier first said it applies to more than judges, then said it didn’t, then abandoned that claim in front of the Supreme Court and now reiterates it in the Secretary of State’s pamphlet, we are left with a basic question. When will man who now claims to have “authored” Amendment E going to make up his mind about what it says?


It is easier to say new things than to reconcile those which have already been said.

Luc de Clapiers Vauvenargues

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