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Looking at JAIL from the standpoint of the founders

Backers of Amendment E love to invoke the founders of this nation in attacking the judiciary and government as a whole. In an insightful op-ed column in today’s Rapid City Journal, Connie Pich takes a look at the true impact of J.A.I.L. on the basic structure of government. She writes:

No matter how sincere the JAIL supporters are, this amendment dismantles the judiciary’s autonomy thus leaving S.D. vulnerable to special interest groups. Special interest groups could endlessly sue public officials who didn’t see things their way until the official resigned. The special interest group could then replace them with officials that supported only their viewpoint. These hand-picked officials (judges) would have the potential to ignore or disallow the rights of ordinary citizens.This scenario was our Founding Father’s greatest fear. They could foresee that, because of political process, the executive branch (president or governor) and the legislative branch could fall into the hands of a special interest. To prevent a takeover of all three branches, it was essential that the court system be immune from pressure to interpret the Constitution in favor of a special interest.

The proposed JAIL amendment dangerously dismantles the constitutional protection of the judiciary by subjecting it to pressure from individuals and special interest groups. As outlined in the JAIL amendment, a Special Grand Jury would be selected from citizens that volunteer specifically for the jury and also from the state’s list of registered voters. Anyone having a vendetta against the official could volunteer to serve on the jury to “get even” with that judge or elected official.

This contaminates the judicial process. Just think if you were being sued and everyone that was ever angry at you volunteered to be on the jury! You have to agree, this would not be justice. Furthermore, the JAIL amendment instructs the jury to favor the complainant. By the JAIL amendment’s instructions to favor the person who is suing you and the jury stacked with people against you, the court is unfairly set up for you to lose!

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South Dakota cannot afford to unknowingly sabotage democracy by passing Amendment E. It is time to start using the legal remedies already in the Constitution to make the court system accountable without destroying the foundations of democracy.

“No” is the only vote that will protect South Dakota from killing our form of government that we proudly call democracy!


It is a besetting vice of democracies to substitute public opinion for law. This is the usual form in which masses of men exhibit their tyranny.

James Fenimore Cooper, The American Democrat

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