A sufficient impetus* but only one of many
Last summer the Iowa Supreme Court handed down an edict that amounts to Roe V Wade for the state of Iowa. In a 5 to 2 decision overturning legislation by those responsible to the people a requirement of a 72 hour waiting period for an elective abortion, an act with profound implications for mother and definitive implications for the child, was declared null and the court used the opportunity to write abortion on demand into the Iowa constitution.
Justice Edward Mansfield in a powerful dissent wrote “From reading the majority opinion, one would barely know that abortion—with few exceptions—was continuously illegal in Iowa from the time our constitution was adopted until the United Supreme Court overrode our law by deciding Roe v. Wade. From reading the majority opinion, one would scarcely be aware that many women in Iowa are prolife and strongly support the same law the court concludes unconstitutionally discriminates against them.”
Certainly every one of the five as they come up for a retention vote by the people under Iowa’s current staggered process (one has decided to retire) should be thrown out of office. But something to ameliorate the process that helps produce this utter disregard for written law, producing judges that substitute what they think the law ought to be, needs to happen at the outset. A proposal in the Iowa legislature for judicial selection reform of Iowa’s good -old boy insider system is a step in the right direction. Fortunately it is in the works and with the support of the Governor’s office.
All our state legislators need to hear from us but in addition to your own state legislator we are told Representative Gary Mohr from Bettendorf needs some urging. It is appropriate that outside constituents voice their opinion as his role in the process affects all Iowans. Urge your state representative and Representative Mohr to support judicial selection reform in Iowa along the lines of Senate File 237 / House File 503. (contact information below)
Why this is necessary:
The people of this state need to have more say in the judicial selection process through their elected representatives. Iowa’s current process is unduly slanted toward Iowa Bar Association activists who tend to be even more liberal than the general membership of a profession that in general is more liberal than the general population.
Such association activists know that “personnel is policy.” The bar associations and their membership are not neutral on matters of great constitutional or juridical importance. Their collective views and policy statements tend less toward rule of law under a constitution and laws as written, and more towards results-oriented interpretations and encouraging judicial policy making. Because they were brought up the same way, so to speak, they are in a position to fine tune with judges matters in which they are likely to be on the same wavelength because of the association’s out-sized influence in the process that selects them! A liberal group effectively has a thumb on the justice scale, whether it evolves over time or is as blatant as can be.
But the law is not for lawyers or judges, it is for the people. It is about what they approved when the Constitution was established and laws compatible with that Constitution passed by their elected representatives. The people should have a more effective voice in the judicial selection process through their elected representatives than a private organization like the bar association.
For all practical purposes the selection process is more effective than the retention process — no one can seriously deny that. Bar associations and phony judicial canons conspire to keep people in the dark about constitutional views of prospective judges (or provide cover for them to hide behind). The people are afforded only a retention decision in a system that can be manipulated so that people who reject Tweedledee only get Tweedledum later as the Bar association helps insure. Further, there is no effective mechanism to insure an informed vote on retention save when a most egregious situation erupts from a judge or judges overplaying their hands. In the meantime liberal judicial views ratchet further into the fabric of the law.
The people should not be so directly and indirectly left out of such an important process that hugely effects governance. If we are good enough to vote on retention, why are we not good enough to be more a part of the initial selection of the judges who we will vote to retain later (through our elected representatives)? The current Iowa process is a mere facade of representative government and democracy.
Short messages urging support for judicial selection reform in Iowa along the lines of SF 237/HF 503 are needed. Your legislator can be found at https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/find — Representative Gary Mohr can be contacted at Gary.firstname.lastname@example.org
Current text of HF 503
As seen at Americans for Prosperity —
Iowa’s judges are chosen by a special commission. Half of that commission is chosen by lawyers.
By allowing lawyers to play such an important role in the selection of our judges, a small group of unelected individuals examines candidates instead of voters. This removes debate over the candidates from the public space and puts it behind closed doors.
There is a proposal in the state legislature to make much-needed reforms. The legislature is considering a change that would replace the lawyer chosen commissioners with ones appointed by legislative leaders from both parties.
If legislative leaders instead of lawyers nominated candidates, these legislators would have the opportunity to be held accountable if they make a poor choice with their nominees. This process would be far more transparent than how it currently stands.
Urge lawmakers to reform our state’s judicial selection process for more transparency and accountability!
(Ignore the biased reporting for the outline of the proposal)More on the subject from the Des Moines Redstar here
*Other egregious examples of Iowa court policy making under the current system of selection include writing a right to same-sex marriage into the Iowa Constitution. It is inescapable that these court decision are essentially saying that same-sex marriage and abortion on demand for any reason at any time were always in the Iowa Constitution, we and the framers just didn’t know it. The people of this state would not have approved the Constitution as written knowing that.