This is not a political blog but I feel compelled to write about the recent political effort by a special interest group to oust many of the judges on the November 2nd ballot including three Iowa Supreme Court Justices. The special interest effort, in my view, is misguided.
I am proud to be a part of the excellent system of justice that exists in Iowa. Like all lawyers and the public, I do not agree with every decision issued by our judges. However, it is my strong belief that our judges do their best to make our court system fair and impartial. In fact, I have written in the past (long before the recent attack on our judiciary) about the national reputation Iowa courts have for fairness. For example, see this post from 2007.
Unfortunately the group trying to oust our judges would have you believe otherwise. They want you to believe that a group of "activist" Supreme Court judges decided to ignore or rewrite our constitution because they unanimously decided in the Varnum case that non-religious, civil marriage should be a right available to everyone. This well-funded special interest group is upset with only that one decision.
Now, in writing this blog post I am not expressing my personal belief about the Varnum decision. My position on the decision is not important and like the CEO of Principal Financial Group wrote in a recent editorial (see link below), my concern is that our judiciary should not make rulings based on fear of public outcry over an unpopular decision or because of campaign contributions from special interest groups rather than the law. How could anyone believe they would get a fair shake in a court system like that?
The special interest group argues these alleged"activist" judges took it upon themselves to ignore the will of the people. Anyone that knows the judges in question, knows this is simply not the case. In our judicial system, when one party in a case alleges a law is unconstitutional, it is the court’s duty to compare the law passed in the political process to the equal protection guaranteed to all in our Constitution. Judges are not activists when they decide constitutional issues, rather, they are required to rule on the issues presented by the parties. They were doing their job. (What’s interesting to me is whether "new" judges would reach a different conclusion if not pressured by a special interest to do so – after all the Varnum decision was unanimous and decided by judges that were appointed by both Republican and Democratic governors).
You may or may not agree with the decision in Varnum. But, for me, that’s not the issue. The issue for me is the notion that an entire Supreme Court and lower court judges should be removed solely because a special interest group disagrees with their decision. This is exactly what could happen if this well-funded special interest group is successful. Do you want a judiciary that is for sale? Do you want a judiciary that must cower in fear because political groups may be unhappy with their next decision? Do you want a judiciary that makes no attempt to be fair and impartial?
I encourage you to do some research on the issue if you have questions. Some items to read include:
- Principal CEO Larry Zimpleman’s editorial in the Des Moines Register.
- Michael Gartner’s article, “Justice is Blind—Throughout its history, the Iowa Supreme Court has been forceful and fearless in preserving and protecting the rights of every Iowan.” October 21-27, 2010, cityview magazine. www.dmcityview.com.
- www.learniowacourts.org Iowans for Fair and Impartial Courts – spokesman former Gov. Bob Ray.
- www.iowacourts.gov (provides profiles of all judges up for election and a summary of the Varnum decision – read the summary and judge for yourself before you blindly follow the special interest group determined to hijack our judiciary).
- The results of the lawyer survey regarding the retention of judges in Iowa. As you will see from the results, the judges received high marks from the lawyers in Iowa.
Finally, I hope you will turn your ballot over and vote ‘Yes’ to retain the judges in our election on November 2nd. The survey from Iowa lawyers demonstrates these judges are well qualified to continue in their current positions and they deserve our support.
*The views expressed in this blog post are my own and are not intended to speak for or represent the views of the other lawyers in Brick Gentry, P.C.