This fall, when Iowa for Freedom began to urge citizens to vote “no” on the retention of three Iowa Supreme Court justices on this year’s ballot, opponents were quick to plead for the absence of politics in the process. They did so without any hint of irony.
But, they didn’t lack arrogance. They scolded that “these folks” have no understanding of eight-grade civics. Eighth grade was some time ago, but perhaps I was absent the day my teacher explained that we have a right and proper judiciary only when politically appointed members of an unelected committee reward other lawyers for their political support. When all of the political donations from judges and the donations to groups defending them are returned, then perhaps we can believe that they are serious in their effort to exclude politics from their trade.
Nonetheless, supporters of the current supreme court request a non-political affirmation for judges. Also, one little opinion out of the thousands of cases they see should not be grounds for dismissal. Even if they believe their responsibility is to find rights that “have not been broadly accepted, were at one point unimagined, or challenge a deeply ingrained practice or law viewed to be impervious to the passage of time.” This comes directly from that one little opinion, Varnum v Brien.
“Unimagine” for the moment that their declaration of editorial license over all things Iowa is somehow not political, they still have not explained exactly why Iowans cannot vote “no” on retention because we don’t like just one case.
And they won’t. Because it is not, or ever has been, about retaining these three justices. It is entirely about saving their “merit process.” I say “their” because the process long ago stopped belonging to the citizens of Iowa. In fact, Iowa’s merit system does not remove politics from judicial selections. It now simply conceals it from the scrutiny of voters. The “system” they want to protect works in the favor of liberal activists. If it weren’t for the retention vote, liberal trial lawyers and special interests would have the entire system locked down.
Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was brought to Des Moines to defend Iowa’s merit system from the tribulations of electioneering. However, direct election of judges and a retention vote are two completely different things. In fact, Justice O’Connor even admitted that ousting judges in a retention vote is part of the process, however, the event organizers portrayed it as though the voters should ignore their principles and emotion and simply submit.
The effort Justice O’Connor supports is designed to shield judges from the ‘whims’ of voters. George Soros has put in upwards of $45 million over the last decade into the Open Society Institute and other groups working to reduce the influence of regular citizens in the judicial selection process. Even my eighth-grade civics teacher thinks that’s political.
After making the general assembly obsolete, the purveyors of Iowa’s judicial selection process have now set their sights on confusing the “deeply ingrained practice” of the retention vote. They want to be an independent judiciary that is allowed to play politics in creating a committee, play politics with nominations, and then politically legislating from the bench. But they rise up and tell the voters not to be political when judges are to be held accountable on a general election ballot.
The 2010 definition of “political” is voting “no” on the retention of these three judges and reminding government that all power is inherent in the people. Iowa voters can remove the asterisk on that constitutional guarantee by voting “no” on judicial retention.
Iowa for Freedom