Judge retention: our verdict — none have earned our vote

Iowa Appellate and Seventh District Retention vote

If they won’t campaign and tell us their views on the judiciary, what they subscribe to, no matter the level, why vote for them, why give them tenure?

Vote against the system

There are no Iowa State Supreme Court judges up.  If there were all but one or two should be opposed. A recent court decision by that body essentially established Roe v Wade for Iowa as a state constitutional right (read more at link).

This election local readers will see on their ballots that only some Iowa Appellate (statewide) and Seventh District and Associate judges are up for retention. The 7th Judicial District encompasses Scott, Cedar, Clinton, Jackson and Muscatine counties.

We take judicial notice that as with the State Supreme Court judges (admittedly  easier to evaluate because of the high-profile nature of many of their cases) that voting for their retention based on which governor nominated them (a constricted choice to be sure because of the so-called Missouri plan used to nominate judges to the bench*), or their political registration, is not a reliable way to root out activist judicial liberals.  Some Branstad appointees have been responsible for judicial atrocities. The vetting machinery for getting what constitutional government needs is not effectively open.

Our approach for this particular election will be to vote against their retention uniformly, baring an effective outreach from individual retention candidates to ask for our vote, giving sound reasons why.

Nevertheless, as a service or maybe just FYI, we have set forth the names of those on the ballot along with the governor who appointed them (see below). But first an explanation as to why we intend to cast votes in opposition to their retention. Our decision is as much a  vote against the system (Missouri plan) that produced them and their failure to tell us why to support them.

We also call for a new study to establish a better way, and in Iowa that may be simply judges on the ballot as a more direct honest political process. For those who are chagrined by voting against all as policy at this time, we would respond why not and why are you voting FOR any or allowing them to be retained by not voting –essentially a vote FOR them as that is how it works.

We would add that if they are so good they can be reappointed by the new governor.

One might ask, does voting against all of them this election (without more information they could provide) risk positioning a Democrat governor to appoint the replacements?  First we think Governor Reynolds will win.  Second we do not know how it can get much worse –  we have gay marriage and Roe V Wade in Iowa through the current system. But especially it is high time for throwing out or establishing key modifications to the system that produces them.

Judicial appointments are hip-deep in politics of one sort or another, within the bar especially (a liberal dominated organization) or superficial political party politics. We have no obligation to retain judges for “good behavior”.  Voters can reject them for any reason or no reason including to inhibit their ascension to even more influential (dangerous) positions on a higher court.

The ball is in the judges court (so to speak) to earn our vote.  No judicial canon or code of conduct (see also here) can prevent them from advocating a judicial philosophy in public. We think they are all guilty of failure to campaign publicly and advertise their judicial operating philosophy, to ask for our vote and confidence, and that is reason enough if any is needed to reject them all.

The following judges are up for retention locally in 2018 and are listed with their appointing governor.  Readers can check and expand our limited work by searching the name of the judge using voter registration data bases available  from county auditors.  Political campaign contributions can be checked at both the Iowa Election Campaign Disclosure Board web site and the Federal Election Commission (FEC) web site. The thresholds for inclusion in the respective data bases are $20 and $200. We will appreciate additional sources of information. If you have better information that they are  conservative, then vote for them.

Iowa Court of Appeals Judges – Standing for Retention  (statewide)

Anuradha Vaitheswaren  –  appointed by liberal Democrat Tom Vilsack

Mary Tabor — appointed by liberal Democrat Chet Culver

Michael R Mullins — appointed by Republican Terry Branstad

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7th District Court Judges – Standing for Retention

Mark D. Cleve  — appointed by Republican Terry Branstad

Tom Reidel — appointed by liberal Democrat Chet Culver

Nancy S. Tabor  – appointed by liberal Democrat Tom Vilsack

John D. Telleen  — appointed by Republican Terry Branstad

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7th Associate District Court Judge – Standing for Retention

Gary P.  Stausser — appointed by liberal Democrat Tom Vilsack


*The judicial selection process in Iowa is referred to as a “process of gubernatorial appointment through nominating commission.” Judges are first appointed by the governor from (usually three) nominees recommended by judicial commissions set up for each judicial district.  Members of those commissions are determined in a quasi-political process which includes the state bar association and gubernatorial appointment.  A more complete explanation of the differences in make-up and processes for the Iowa Supreme Court and the Iowa District Court commissions is available here.

After being appointed and fulfilling their first term of office judges have to survive a vote by the people of their jurisdiction as to whether they should serve each new term for the same judgeship, i.e. the retention vote. Terms are staggered so that not all judges will be up for retention in a given jurisdiction each election.

These so-called Missouri Plan judicial nominating protocols infuse way too much influence to the liberal dominated state bar association, and the governor appointed nominating commission that have too often proven inept, not insightful, instead responsive to good-old boy influences rather than being sufficiently proactive and informative. They publish nothing of substance as to why they choose who they choose, how candidates were vetted, what questions were asked and what the answers were. The people are kept in the dark in the nomination and retention process but are expected to vote intelligently.

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