A coalition of conservative groups calling itself “Iowans Concerned About Judges” announced today (Tuesday) that it’s sent questionnaires to judges facing re-election in the state to ask their opinions on certain issues. The Iowa Family Policy Center, “Focus on the Family,” and the Iowa Christian Alliance are among the groups planning to use those questionnaires to produce a voter guide.
Iowa Family Policy Center president, Chuck Hurley, says the Iowa Supreme Court this year amended its rules to let judges answer such surveys. Several of the questions ask about general judicial philosophy, asking how judges would rate their own attitude about things like the constitution as a “living document” or whether it should be strictly construed in rulings on cases.
Hurley say there are also specific cases in which the judges are asked if they agree with the philosophy underlying cases like the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling in Roe v. Wade, same-sex marriage, and “religious expression in the public square.”
They’re asked what organizations they’ve been affiliated with over the last 20 years. Hurley says that’s to try to find out “who their cohorts are, who they agree with” whether it be pro-life or pro-choice groups, gay rights groups or the National Rifle Association to name some examples.
Hurley says the survey is “definitely designed to elicit a judge’s overall philosophy” on key cultural issues. Hurley says before a voter casts that vote, they’re concerned whether judges will “support their values, or undermine them.”. He says the courts have become a focus for “all manner of issues.” Some attempts to determine how a judge will rule on future cases have misfired, as a judge will rule differently than expected once a case comes before the bench.
Hurley says that’s why Iowa’s system of electing them is a good one. Every six or eight years, judges come up for another vote. “If their judicial philosophy strays from how they answer the questionnaire, then we’ll be able to track that and inform the voters,” Hurley says. Judges aren’t required to answer the questionnaires, but the group promises to assemble a guide listing their responses or the lack thereof.