The Iowa Supreme Court’s Chief Justice is criticizing those who he says are “politicizing” the courts. Chief Justice Louis Lavorato will retire this fall and delivered his final “Condition of the Judiciary” message to Iowa lawmakers today. Lavorato says “rather than legitimate criticism,” the public is “barraged with rash generalizations, loaded sound bites and alarmist overstatements” — “all intended to exploit and inflame” the public. “The sole purpose of these tactics is to politicize our courts so that judges are servants of popular ideologies rather than servants of the law,” Iowa’s top judge says.
Lavorato says these “attacks” weaken the courts and their ability to uphold the Constitution and protect the public. “The current popular sport of lodging spurious and vitriolic attacks against the nation’s judiciary threatens not only to diminish respect for our courts, but also to further diminish the public’s opinion of government,” Lavorato says. Finally, as U.S. Senators are quizzing President Bush’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court about his political views, Iowa’s top judge says all judges are accountable to the Constitution and the law, not political pressure.
“If you followed the confirmation process of Chief Justice Roberts, you heard or read statements by members of Congress, the president and Chief Justice Roberts himself about the duty of judges to render decisions based upon the rule of law, not personal views or the views of politicians or special interest groups,” Lavorato says. “This is how the judiciary works.” Lavorato says it is never appropriate for judges to consider public opinion when deciding cases. Judges must be guided by the Constitution and the law, according to Lavorato.
Lavorato says that value is under attack from “forces” working to “undermine” judicial independence. Lavorato is a native of Des Moines who graduated at the top of his Drake Law School class. He was appointed to the Iowa Supreme Court in 1986 and named Chief Justice six years ago.