J.A.I.L. Lies – Part 1

As promised in the last post, this is the first in an ongoing series of posts examining the arguments made by promoters of South Dakota’s Judicial Accountability Initiative Law (J.A.I.L.) and how they misrepresent, misconstrue and even lie in an effort to sell the public their bill of goods.

The first few posts will focus on something that appears to worry J.A.I.L.ers the most: the fact their proposal will apply to administrative agencies, school boards, city councils and the like. This is, in fact, one of the areas where their hyperbole and statements not only fly in the face of fact, they ignore the text of their own proposed amendment.

A recent missive from “Barbie” at the national J.A.I.L. organization (presumably Barbie Branson, wife of J.A.I.L. author Ron Branson) is a case in point. In discussing the South Dakota measure, she said:

As far as “all other persons claiming to be shielded by judicial immunity,” it would necessarily be limited only to those having authority to finally rule on constitutional procedural issues as set forth in &#182 2 of the Amendment. That limitation would eliminate administrative agencies, such as “boards” and “councils” etc. since they do not have such final authority. In order to qualify for J.A.I.L. scrutiny, a litigant would have to first exhaust all judicial remedies which are presided over by judges having authority to finally rule on administrative proceedings involving constitutional questions. “Boards” and “councils” are not part of the judicial remedy required under J.A.I.L.

(Emphasis as in original).

There’s so much wrong with this one paragraph that it will require three separate posts to address the misstatements. Today’s will look at the contention J.A.I.L. applies only to the judiciary.

Part of the problem here is “Barbie” ignores the quote that appears in her very first sentence. It comes from the amendment itself, which defines a judge to include “all other persons claiming to be shielded by judicial immunity.” Many entities and officers at all levels of government engage in judicial functions. For example, the Department of Labor hears workers’ compensation, unemployment compensation and labor disputes. Similarly, a terminated teacher can request a hearing in front of a school board as part of their appeal rights while various municipalities have boards of appeal that review challenges to things ranging from decisions of zoning officials to building code matters. In each of these situations, the individuals are acting in a “quasi-judicial” capacity, making them “persons claiming to be shielded by judicial immunity.”

As part of the national organization, you would think “Barbie” would be aware of what Ron Branson, the author of J.A.I.L., said on this topic in his role as “National J.A.I.L. Commander-In-Chief.” In December, after the measure was on the South Dakota ballot and before the South Dakota J.A.I.L.ers backed away from him, Branson wrote:

The criterion under J.A.I.L. is not what a person’s title is –it can be a janitor, a clown in a circus, –anything. The criterion under J.A.I.L. is if a person, regardless of title or position, who allegedly violates the law as specified in the Initiative, has been deemed by the judiciary to be shielded by judicial immunity. . . . .

* * *

Liability has to extend from the beginning participants, including administrative officials in an administrative case, through the final participants[.]

(Emphasis in first paragraph as in original; emphasis in second paragraph added).

While a later part of this series will look at Ron Branson’s own contradictory statements and seeming inability to comprehend the language in the initiative, suffice it to say that this statement is entirely consistent with the amendment’s definition of “judge.” For anyone associated with J.A.I.L. to contend the proposal would apply only to the judicial branch is proved false by the terms of the amendment itself.

The next installment will look at the fallacy of the assertion that J.A.I.L. applies only when “constitutional procedural issues” are involved.

There would be no sense in lying unless the truth were felt to be dangerous.

Alfred Adler, What Life Could Mean to You

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