Four Iowans have filed suit saying the process used by the state commission to select nominees that are appointed as judges is unconstitutional. Attorney Joseph Vanderhulst, an associate of the Bopp, Coleson and Bostrom firm in Indiana is representing the Iowans. Vanderhulst says the suit concerns the seven members of the judicial nominating commission that are elected by the Iowa Bar Association.
Vanderhulst says those elections are restricted to attorneys, and unless the state has a compelling reason to do that, then it is a violation of the equal protection rights of the constitution for those who aren’t attorneys and are excluded from voting. Seven other members of the commission are chosen by the governor and confirmed by the legislature, and the 15th member is the senior justice on the Iowa Supreme Court.
Vanderhulst says it is not necessarily reasonable to says that lawyers are the best people to chose other lawyers who are the best qualified to serve as judges. He says the right to vote for public officers can’t be restricted based on who the state thinks is better qualified to determine who would be better qualified to say who make a good judge or governor or other elected officials.
“I mean we live in a republic where everyone is equal, and just because you are in a certain occupation, doesn’t mean that you should get a special say,” Vanderhulst says. Vanderhulst says the goal of the suit is to stop the unconstitutional portion of the process.
Vanderhulst says they want to freeze any further elections by the seven members who are elected solely by attorneys and freezing the powers of those members because they did not receive their power legitimately. Similar cases in Alaska and Kansas were thrown out by the federal courts. Vanderhulst says there are some differences in how Iowa’s selection process works, but he said the other cases haven’t run their full course yet.
He says both of those cases are on appeal and they hope the “higher courts will see the correct application of the law and correct those decisions.” The Iowans named in the lawsuit are: Steve Carlson of Woodbury County, Mary Granzow of Polk County, Richard Kettells of Pleasant Hill, and William Ramsey of Black Hawk County.
Published reports say all four have Republican ties. The judicial nominating commission came under the spotlight after three Iowa Supreme Court justices who were part of the ruling that overturned the state ban on gay marriage were voted off the bench in November. Vanderhulst says he is not sure when the case will be heard in federal court.