July 28, 2014

Targeted supreme court justice wins retention vote

Iowa voters chose to retain an Iowa Supreme Court justice who was targeted for defeat because he joined the 2009 court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in Iowa. Cynthia Moser, a Sioux City attorney, is president of the Iowa State Bar Association, a group that campaigned for Justice David Wiggins.

“Iowans have affirmed their support for and confidence in Iowa’s merit system of selecting judges which has allowed our state to rank consistently in the top 10 of all states for fairness and impartiality of its courts,” Moser said last night during a news conference.

Bob Vander Plaats was the leader of the “No Wiggins” campaign.

“Even though it looks like Justice Wiggins will be retained by a narrow margin, hundreds of thousands of voters have voted against his retention,” Vander Plaats told Radio Iowa late last night. “That’s not a good statement of validation for Justice Wiggins.”

Vander Plaats led a successful effort in 2010 to oust three other justices who signed onto that 2009 opinion. The three remaining co-signers — including the opinion’s author — are up for a retention vote in 2016. Vander Plaats told Radio Iowa he doesn’t know if he’ll be leading an anti-retention campaign in four years.

“But my guess is somebody’s going to do it and we’ll probably be supportive of it to hold justices accountable who have shown a propensity to go outside of their constitutional parameters,” Vander Plaats said.

The Bar Association’s president said she hopes Wiggins’ successful retention vote will end the efforts to influence the retention process.

“Going forward we are confident that Iowa’s judges will continue to make decisions based on the law and that they will not allow politics, the agendas of special interest groups and outside money to impact their decisions,” Moser said last night.

The three justices Governor Branstad appointed to the court in 2011 — to replace the three ousted justices — were also retained in yesterday’s voting.

(Additional reporting by Radio Iowa’s Todd Kimm)