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Here Comes… October 25, 2006

Posted by gregquill in Uncategorized.


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(NPR) “South Dakotans will vote next month on a proposed state constitutional amendment that would strip judges, jurors, and other state officials of their immunity from lawsuits for their official actions. The proposal has alarmed not only judges, but also large swathes of South Dakota society.”

The idea of setting up a state wide special grand jury of 12 randomly selected people (who cannot be lawyers or judges) to hear appeals comes from California, and a guy who could not afford to get the number of signatures in California for the November ballot. It’s cheaper in South Dakota. It’s called Jail for Judges.

All special interests are upset: not just judges and lawyers (of course), but also the teachers’ union, car dealers, agri-farm multinationals – everyone who could have a landmark case costing millions of dollars overturned by twelve “amateurs”.

Actually, the Grand Jury won’t overturn the cases. If the bill is approved, the Grand Jury could determine that the judge did something unlawful, and therefore remove his or her immunity from prosecution. Retrying the case, and conviction of the judge, would have to follow in separate trials with their own judges, juries, lawyers and what not.

It looks interesting… if we take it beyond the “remove immunity and re-try the case” step.

Say the teachers’ union wins a close decision in a non-jury case against the Podunk, S.D. school board. As a result, say, to correct years of discrimination, the judge decides that the next ten teachers hired in Podunk must be Muslims. The Judge turns out to be George Smith, a part-time professor at the teachers’ college, but his new name is Abdul Hasan Bani Sadr, he having just converted to Islam.

It’s possible that any citizen could convince the Grand Jury to allow the school board to sue the judge for any number of reasons, including failure to recuse himself.

So, what’s the benefit? Knowing the potential for problems, the union might decide not to bring the case to court at all, but to negotiate with the school board.

Hey, not bad! We just took a step away from suing everyone in sight everytime Martha gets a hangnail!

Maybe this is what it takes. It’s for sure that today the lawyers have no incentive to work it out on their own.



1. Greg Finnegan - November 8, 2006


It failed.

It only got 10% of the vote.

South Dakota hasn’t been this united since Mt. Rushmore was a prairie dog hill.

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