Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Judges under fire?

This NPR story caught my eye, or rather my ear. I was listening in the car when I heard this report concerning Proposition E in South Dakota. Now, I have to admit that although I listen to NPR, it is with a rather cautious attitude and suffice it to say that rather often I disagree with their opinions, but appreciate the news coverage. But this may be something that NPR and I can actually agree on.
Supposedly, there is a proposition on the ballot for the upcoming election in South Dakota that will allow people unhappy with their result in the judicial system to take their case before a board of jurors specifically chosen to listen to such cases. If the board finds that the person's case has merit and agrees that the person was treated unfairly, the person is then given the right to sue the judge in question for damages. This does not negate or overturn the judge's initial decision, but opens the judge up for civil lawsuits concerning professional decisions. This is bizzare. How many cases end up with at least one party, if not both, dissatisfied with the judge's decision? Also, there is no appeals process for this amendment. If the board finds in favor of the individual, the judge has no option but fight a lawsuit. I really can't see how this is a good idea. It seems to being gaining opposition from many angles. Businessmen, lawyers, farmers, educators and many others are coming out to speak against this movement. It does have its supporters, but I am guessing that at least some of its early support was gained by misrepresentation and subterfuge. Arguments like "Aren't you tired of crooked judges abusing the judiciary system at their own whims?" and "Do you believe that common people like yourself should be able to have some method of making sure judges don't kowtow to special interests and power groups?" that are followed with rousing assertions of "Then, my friend, you are FOR Prop E, which puts the power back into your hands and out of the hands of power mongering crooked judges!". I will freely admit that the previous situation is complete conjecture on my part and I have no basis for it other than my own experience with human nature, but I could easily see situations like that happening. But now, with it gaining exposure, Prop E is being seen for what it really is; a push by a minority of people unhappy with the current state of affairs to enable them to address their grievances at higher levels than needed and skip the systems built-in and very sensible protections. But, that is just my rambling $0.02, what do you think?

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