As many of you already know, judicial activism has become a problem in Iowa’s judiciary. The Iowa Supreme Court has repeatedly engaged in activity that has stepped beyond the limits set in place in the Iowa Constitution. After deciding that they could endure no more the citizen’s of Iowa last November sent a clear and unmistakable message to the Iowa Supreme Court. In a historic vote, a majority of Iowa’s voters elected to decline retention of three of Iowa’s Supreme Court Justices. The message was clear, the Justices had overstepped their constitutional limitations and the public had had enough. Many of us had hoped that in the wake of November 2nd the remaining Justices would see the error of their ways. However that was not to be. Just days after the Justices failed retention the Iowa Supreme Court once again engaged in judicial activism. It became abundantly clear that something more was going to need to be done to put the genie back in the bottle. This unfortunate set of circumstances has left the citizen’s of Iowa with very few options with which to hold the Iowa Supreme Court accountable.
The first option available to the citizen’s of Iowa would be to turn a blind eye to the blatant violations of the Constitution emanating from the Supreme Court. This is the option that many of the Courts supporters would have us choose. They fail to recognize that a Supreme Court that uses the Constitution as a doormat is a danger to all Iowan’s. If that same Supreme Court ignores the Constitution there is no part of our state that is safe. Unfortunately we have organizations such as “Justice Not Politics” that is attempting to stir up support for the rogue court. They mistakenly claim that removing the remaining Justices would create an unfair and biased judiciary. If the Iowa House were to capitulate to the wishes of this group of legal elites they would run the risk of nullifying the power of their own branch of government, not to mention that of the executive branch. Obviously this option is entirely unacceptable. By exercising this option our state would essentially become ruled by judicial fiat which may just be the motivation of former Lt. Governor Sally Pederson and her colleagues. Not a pretty sight.
The second option available to the citizen’s of Iowa is one that has been and is being advocated by former Republican Gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats. The basis of this option is a plea to the sense of decency and honor among the Justices to resign. On the surface this is an excellent idea, however if one were to think about it for a while you would come to the conclusion that this effort is doomed. If the Supreme Court Justices actually saw what they did as wrong they would not have done it in the first place. Thus by asking them to resign for it would be akin asking them to admit fault. I for one do not foresee the Justices doing that. Instead by seeking their resignation rather than seizing the initiative would doom the citizen’s of Iowa to having to accept option number one.
The third option is to wait until the remaining Justices are up for their retention votes. While we were able to evict three Justices in this manner, it does not mean that this is the best option for removing the remaining Justices in this fashion. It would take years of concerted effort to work continue the work that began in 2010 to reform the highest court in the land. In the meantime the three new Justices would be exposed to the judicial activism that is so apparent in the current court. During this time the new Justices may begin to succumb to the desire to legislate from the bench. Thus we can only come to the conclusion that waiting for the remaining retention votes would not solve the problem.
This leaves us with option number four. Some have called this option the “nuclear” option. The option of last resort. We can impeach the remaining four Supreme Court Justices for their malfeasance and subsequently remove them from the bench. This option is the one that the most opposition. Some seem to want nothing more than to remain with the status quo, such as the misnamed organization “Justice Not Politics”. And while this option has the most opposition it is also the most likely to work. It is the option that is most likely to curb judicial activism.
Of all the options available to us, the citizen’s of Iowa, option number four is the only one that is feasible. It would not allow the current rogue court to continue to abuse their positions to advance their own beliefs. Additionally it would not allow the incoming Justices thinking to become polluted and corrupted by the judicial activist mentality. Furthermore it would send a powerful message to future Supreme Court Justices. If you engage in unconstitutional activity, we the people of Iowa will act accordingly.
On April 3, 2009, when the seven Iowa Supreme Court justices unanimously attempted to legalize same-sex marriage in the state many citizens believed their rights had been trampled on and their voices silenced because they never had a chance to vote on the issue. Those that celebrated the destruction of the definition of marriage declared victory after using seven black robes who over-stepped their Constitutional duties by injecting their personal views into their decision and then legislating that view from the bench. Because Iowa has such a complicated and long process to pass an amendment to the Constitution, the gay rights activists thought that the ruling was safe because the people of Iowa would “forget” by the time they could vote on a Marriage Amendment.
What wasn’t foreseen, however, on if people were going to “forget” is the 2010 gubernatorial primary in which the candidate Bob Vander Plaats made judicial activism the center of his campaign in response to the 2009 marriage ruling. Unforseen also was former Governor Terry Branstad’s entrance into the race that put an end to Vander Plaats’ governor aspirations on June 8th only to have him launch another initiative, Iowa For Freedom, against the three of the seven judges on the Supreme Court who were up for a retention vote. On November 2nd, more than a year and a half after the Varnum v. Brien decision, the initiative was a remarkable success and those three activist judges were soundly rebuked by the people of Iowa when they finally got to have some sort of say in the matter and were removed from the bench. In the almost two months since the people of Iowa voted “no” on the retention of the three judges on the Iowa Supreme Court the media is still fascinated by the story and liberals are still complaining about a system they fully supported until the people of Iowa decided to use it.
There is now an initiative coming from three incoming House of Representative freshmen legislators who are drafting the necessary legislation to start the impeachment process, which is within Constitutional guidelines, against the four remaining Supreme Court justices . Kim Pearson (district 42), Tom Shaw (district 8 ) and Glen Massie (district 74) are the newly elected Iowa House members who are invoking this procedure in order to deal with the remaining judges who were just as wrong as the three who overwhelmingly were voted to be removed. Bob Vander Plaats, who is now President and CEO of The Family Leader, has taken a different approach and is encouraging the remaining judges to do the right thing and resign which would alleviate the need for the impeachment process. Either way, it looks like it will be a long time yet before Iowans “forget” April 3, 2009, while conservatives of conviction work on reigning in out of control courts and pushing for a Marriage Amendment on the ballot.
The impeachment process will take grassroots support to show that the government is still about “we the people.” Please contact your State Representative and State Senator and tell them that you support holding the judiciary accountable. You can also sign this petition in order to show your support of the Articles of Impeachment.