The organization that represents more than 8,000 Iowa lawyers and judges is firing back after last week’s legal challenge of the way judges are selected in Iowa.
The Iowa State Bar Association’s Board of Governors has unanimously passed a resolution decrying the “attack” on the process. Bob Waterman, a Davenport attorney, is president-elect of the Iowa State Bar Association.
“It’s important for the public to know that the Iowa State Bar Association continues to fully support the Iowa Judicial Nominating Commission and the way its members are selected and endorse it completely,” Waterman says. “We believe these attacks on the Judicial Nominating Commission are politically-motivated by these interest groups and that they do not serve any valid purpose.”
The 15-member commission meets to review applications for openings in Iowa courts. Seven of the commission members come from the Bar Association. That commission is soliciting applicants for three openings on Iowa’s highest court as three Iowa Supreme Court justices were voted off the bench in November’s election.
“The Iowa State Bar Association was involved in the retention election effort and we intend to continue to stay involved,” Waterman says. “We will take a measured response to further challenges in an effort to support our system which we believe is one of the best in the country.”
The Bar Association issued a statement, saying the lawsuits which have been filed in the past week are “an attack on the right of Iowans to have judges…who are committed to rendering decisions based solely on the rule of law, not on the basis of their personal beliefs or…pressure from special interest groups.” Waterman says the merit selection process and judicial retention elections have worked for nearly 50 years in Iowa, and the process should be retained.
“Once you start introducing challenges to the way the judges are selected by, for example, electing judges or requiring judges to politic to retain their seats, then all of a sudden you risk having judges be in a situation where they consider things other than the law and the facts when they decide their cases,” Waterman says.
A lawsuit filed last Friday charges it is unreasonable to reserve seven spaces on the Judicial Nominating Commission for lawyers or judges who are members of the Iowa State Bar Association. A lawyer at the firm that filed the lawsuit says it means Iowans who are not lawyers are then excluded from the process. In addition to the seven Judicial Nominating Commission members who come from the Bar Association, seven more are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Iowa Senate. The 15th member is the senior justice on the Iowa Supreme Court who is not the chief justice.