A poll of likely Iowa voters finds 43 percent say they’ll vote to oust an Iowa Supreme Court justice who signed onto the 2009 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in Iowa. Bob Vander Plaats is leading the “vote no” campaign against Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins and Vander Plaats spoke last night at the Iowa Republican Party’s fall fundraising banquet.
“When we see judges that are activist in nature, that make law from the bench, that execute law from the bench, that try to amend our constitution from the bench we must hold them accountable,” Vander Plaats said.
AUDIO of Vander Plaats’ eight minute speech.
According to Iowa State Bar Association president Cynthia Moser of Sioux City, the court was guided by the “equal protection clause” in Iowa’s constitution when it issued that 2009 ruling.
“Our judges and justices take an oath when they’re sworn in to uphold and defend the Constitution of the State of Iowa and that is precisely what they did here,” Moser said earlier this year on Iowa Public Television. “They did not legislate from the bench.”
Judges in Iowa’s court system stand for a retention election every eight years and in 2010 Vander Plaats was chairman of the anti-retention campaign to oust three justices, including the Iowa Supreme Court’s chief justice, for their role in the 2009 same-sex marriage ruling.
“They said they’re going to hold Iowa’s constitution up to an evolving standard,” Vander Plaats said last night. “Ladies and gentlemen, they do not get to evolve our constitution. Only ‘we, the people’ get to amend our constitution, never a court.”
This year the Iowa State Bar Association and other groups have actively campaigned for Wiggins retention.Vander Plaats points to the Bar Association’s own 63 percent rating for Wiggins, from lawyers who’ve appeared before the Iowa Supreme Court.
“He is the lowest rated Supreme Court Justice in Iowa history and I believe that is enough for us to vote off David Wiggins on November 6,” Vander Plaats said last night.
The Iowa State Bar Association president Cynthia Moser of Sioux City challenged that reasoning during a joint appearance with Vander Plaats earlier this year, suggesting 63 percent would be a landslide were Wiggins a politician seeking reelection.
“The fact remains that Justice Wiggins, when you look at the judicial retention survey, scored in the high satisfactory range on every question that was asked and deserves to be retained,” Moser said on Iowa Public Television.
Moser also questions why Vander Plaats is focused on that lawyers’ rating, since the three justices who were voted off the bench two years ago scored higher than Wiggins did on the judicial retention survey.
“The rating wouldn’t make a difference to you,” Moser said, and Vander Plaats responded: “You’re right.”
Moser continued: “It didn’t make a difference to you in 2010 when (now former Iowa Supreme Court Justices) Streit, Ternus and Baker were on.”
Moser and others question the validity of the Public Policy Polling survey which indicated 43 percent of Iowans intend to vote no on Wiggins, while only 37 percent said they’d vote to retain him, as they say the polling firm questioned a disproportionate share of Republicans and voters over the age of 60.
Neither of Iowa’s two major political parties got directly involved in the 2010 retention election but this past August, the chairman of the Iowa GOP urged Republicans to vote against Justice Wiggins on this year’s retention ballot. In September, at Iowa Senator Tom Harkin’s annual fall fundraiser, the chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party urged Democrats to flip their ballot over and vote yes on Wiggins. However, the Iowa Democratic Party held its annual fall fundraiser this past weekend and no speaker at the event made the case for Wiggins’ retention.