(This story was updated at 12:20)
A spokesperson for the Iowa Supreme Court isn’t saying much about Iowa voters’ decision to remove three justices from the bench. Steve Davis is the court’s communication officer. “The court will meet next week to discuss how to handle the transition,” Davis told Radio Iowa. “At that point, I’ll know more.”
Davis did not say exactly when next week the justices will meet or if they’ll be involved in hearing cases or writing opinions prior to December 31 – their final day on the bench. It’s the first time Iowa voters have decided not to retain an Iowa Supreme Court Justice since 1962, when the retention system for judges was adopted.
“There have been district court judges and district associate judges who were not retained, but there have not been Iowa Supreme Court justices who’ve not been retained before,” Davis said. Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices David Baker and Michael Streit (rhymes with ‘right’) were targeted for removal by Iowans who were upset with a 2009 ruling which legalized same-sex marriages in the state.
The three justices released a statement early this morning: “We hope Iowans will continue to support Iowa’s merit selection system for appointing judges. This system helps ensure that judges base their decisions on the law and the Constitution and nothing else. Ultimately, however, the preservation of our state’s fair and impartial courts will require more than the integrity and fortitude of individual judges, it will require the steadfast support of the people.”
Governor Chet Culver could still appoint new justices before he leaves office. Culver today issued the following statement regarding the appointment of Iowa Supreme Court Justices:
“I am reviewing the matter carefully to ensure the judicial selection process that is utilized now is consistent with the Iowa Constitution, with Iowa law, and with past practices used in the course of both Democratic and Republican administrations in instances when multiple vacancies in our appellate courts have been created simultaneously.”