July 24, 2014

Five House members seek impeachment of four justices

Five Republicans in the Iowa House are co-sponsoring resolutions that call for impeaching four of the justices on the Iowa Supreme Court, but that may be as far as the process advances this year.

Iowa voters tossed three justices who joined the court’s ruling that legalized same-sex marriage off the bench last November, but four other justices who were part of that unanimous ruling remain on the court. Representative Tom Shaw, a Republican from Laurens, says the articles of impeachment he helped draft accuse the four remaining justices of overstepping their authority.

“Marriage is between one man and one woman and they just up and tried to change the definition of a word and you just can’t do that,” Shaw says. “Justices don’t have the authority to change the meanings of words.”

The Iowa legislature passed a Defense of Marriage Act in 1998 and just over two years ago the state’s highest court ruled the law was unconstitutional. Shaw says the justices should be impeached in order to “maintain the integrity” of the state’s constitution.

“In the constitution, Article III, Section 1, it clearly states, ‘One department can’t do the job of another department,’” Shaw says, “and I believe, and my colleagues believe, that’s what they did in their ruling.”

The articles of impeachment allege the four justices committed malfeasance in office by “usurping” powers reserved for legislators — creating a “constitutional crisis.”  Republican Representatives Dwayne Alons of Hull, Betty DeBoef of What Cheer, Glen Massie of Des Moines and Kim Pearson of Pleasant Hill joined Shaw in co-sponsoring the proposed articles of impeachment.

“We filed these because we just believe that this is what we should do in order to maintain our oath of office and our oath to defend the constitution,” Shaw says. “And so we do what we feel what we must do and it’ll be up to each legislator then, individually, to make up their mind.”

Earlier this year the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said there weren’t enough votes in that committee to advance articles of impeachment against the four justices.

The Democratic leader in the Iowa House issued a statement late tonight calling on the Republican leaders in the House to “publicly condemn” the efforts of Shaw and the other four Republicans who are co-sponsoring the articles of impeachment.  House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines said impeaching the justices is an “outrageous, extremist proposal.” 

Under the process of impeachment, the House of Representatives would have to approve the resolutions the five legislators drafted, outlining articles of impeachment.  The Iowa Senate would then hold a trial.