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Amendment E

November 3, 2006, 10:00 PM by Angela Kennecke

The fact that the passage of Amendment E is leading the polls has many, who usually remain neutral on election issues, alarmed. That includes two political science professors who say it could dramatically change government. 

The "Vote No on E Campaign" claimes Amendment E would make jurors vulnerable to criminals who hold a grudge.

Those claims sparked a lawsuit from the amendment's supporters. But the state supreme court already ruled with the attorney general's description of the law; anyone making judical decisions could be sued under Amendment E.

"I think it was originally sold as something to make judges more accountable, but it does seem to have an impact on school boards, city councils and jurors," Augustana Political Science Professor Brent Lerseth said.

Amendment E would allow anyone unhappy with a verdict to sue the decision maker. Currently under South Dakota law, rulings can be appealed and misconduct can result in someone being removed from a school board or city council or other office. But they can't be forced to pay monetary damages. Amendment E would change that, even for citizens serving on juries. 

"Something like that would have a fundamental major impact on decision making if that is something that decision makers always have to take into account," Lerseth said.

The professors say E threatens the independence of the entire judiciary system.

"This is holding them accountable for discretionary decisions they might have made and very seriously threatens integrity and independence of judiciary," South Dakota State Political Science Professor Bob Burns said.

The fact that E is retroactive, allowing for someone to sue for damages from before E went into affect, could also be unconstitutional.

"Article one section ten of U-S constitution specifically prohibits states from approving ex post facto legislation," Burns said.

This week South Dakota's congressional delegation, along with Stephanie Herseth's opponent, Bruce Whalen, and the candidates for governor issued a joint statement in opposition to Amendment E.

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