Iowa voter’s fancy themselves above checks-and-balances

Iowa’s ousting of several state supreme court judges who ruled in favor of same-sex marriage is a scary day for those who believe an independent judiciary as essential to democracy.

And supporters of removing the judges for making legal decisions the some don’t like completely miss the whole point of having judges rule on constitutionality issues in the first place:

“I think it will send a message across the country that the power resides with the people,” Bob Vander Plaats, a Republican who led the campaign after losing the Republican nomination for governor, told a crowd of cheering supporters at an election night party peppered with red signs declaring “No Activist Judges.” “It’s we the people, not we the courts.”

One of the roles of judges is to protect the minority against the majority, who could strip them of their rights if it were put up to a vote.  In Iowa’s case, that’s essentially what happened.  Conservatives were able to remove judges, though a huge spending campaign funded largely by non-Iowans, who made a ruling based on the law that conservatives didn’t like. This is exactly why judges should not be chosen by election–because judges aren’t supposed to be beholden to the people, but to the law.

(Cross-posted to The Reaction)

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Published in: on November 5, 2010 at 11:55 am  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. As a resident of Iowa, I can tell you that this vote was vengeance, pure and simple. Out of state money poured into Iowa like a gusher, nonstop TV ads looped endlessly and people were brainwashed. The vote did not reverse the Iowa Supreme Court decision.
    My take is that since VanderPlaats lost his bid for the governorship, he couldn’t let his driving cause, a ban on gay marriage, die with it. The ineffable Rep. Steve King jumped on this bandwagon since he was instrumental in the writing of the original state law that got overturned in the Supreme Court case.
    Not all Iowans were snookered into voting against these justices. Our former Republican governor, Robert Ray, headed a commercial campaign of reason. You know that reason was not the victor in this election cycle.
    Maybe cooler heads will prevail in the future. We can always dream.

  2. Many Iowans support the judicial retention system and an independent Judiciary. The status of the Supreme Court is so much more complicated than one issue. The Legislature gave the Chief Justice complete control of the judicial system and for over 20 years successive Chief Justices have mismanaged Iowa court services from crisis to crisis until we find our State in disaster. The Justices have stripped rural Iowa of any voice in assigning judicial assets. Rural court personnel continually have their jobs reassigned to urban Iowa.

    We pay taxes for these services and rural court services are the first item cut in their manufactured budget crisis .Rural main street businesses depend on the traffic that court services bring just like businesses in urban Iowa. Every single county clerk’s office brings in more money in fines, fees and surcharges than they use to provide local court services. The Chief Justices have used their budget to build an enormous and cumbersome bureaucracy in Des Moines. The legislature has left us no alternative but to oust these incompetent managers from office.

    The incompetence of the Court in its administrative duties has been a battle for years. Urban Iowa is where the newspapers are located and their editorial boards have cheer lead the consolidation of government and schools. The Urban counties will be the big winners in the forced shift of huge amounts of tax dollars from Rural Iowa to Urban Iowa. Consolidation has not worked as the degradation of Court services has shown. It has cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and we have 2/3 of the services. If you look at the no votes for the justices in years past you will see a steady climb in them election to election. Our campaign to oust them has been years in the making. While the same sex marriage issue pushed the numbers over the top, I feel a majority of the no votes was a rejection of their poor performance as administrators. Iowans used to be able to vote out a County Clerk of Court for this, but the Supreme Court wanted their power and now they have it. All I have is the retention ballot and I used it.

    • I live in the Fifth District of Iowa, and I can tell you that your reason for voting no was definitely in the minority of reasons for the no vote.

      The overwhelming reason people voted no was the gay marriage decision. The blizzard of “No judicial activists” signs addressed the gay marriage decision. The TV ads scared gun nuts because they intimated that a “right”(?) of the majority had been violated and next was the right to keep and bear arms. ??!? People responded to the hate, fear and anger campaign.

      I voted to retain the three justices.

  3. My neighbors are the ones who keep reelecting Steve King by wide margins, to the great embarrassment of the state. They don’t think courts should be enforcing any rights but their own. They don’t see any contradiction between this view and their professed love of liberty.


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