The Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court has issued a response to a plan by a coalition of conservative groups to send out questionnaires to judges on various issues for use in a voter guide.
The response from Chief Justice Louis Lavorato says the United States Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that prohibiting judges from announcing positions on issues violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Lavorato says though there are still some important considerations judges must keep in mind when deciding whether or not to announce their views on legal and political issues. Lavorato says if a judge exercises his or her right to announce a position on an issue, the judge’s impartiality may be called into question, and the judge may have to decline to handle cases involving the issue.
Lavorato says he appreciate’s the public’s desire to learn about judges they’re voting on — and Lavorato recommends that voters study the evaluation of judges conducted by the Iowa State Bar Association. Lavorato says the Bar Association evaluation is highly informative and rates judges on a wide range of professional qualifications and skills. Lavorato says that evaluation will be available in October.
He says voters can also find information about judges and judicial retention elections at www.judicial.state.ia.us.