Governor Branstad is predicting the Iowa Supreme Court justice who faces a retention vote in 2012 will be criticized for more than just the court’s gay marriage ruling.
Justice David Wiggins was one of the seven justices who joined in that unanimous, 2009 ruling which paved the way for gay marriage in Iowa. Three of those justices who were up for retention in 2010 were voted off the court. Branstad says Wiggins may face a similar fate.
“Especially in light of the fact that he chaired the Judicial Nominating Commission and the way he treated some of the applicants to that — and that was all on videotape — I suspect there’s going to be some people who have grave concerns about the way that he has operated,” Branstad says.
Wiggins was chairman of the Judicial Nominating Committee because he was the longest-serving justice on the court who wasn’t the chief justice. In late January the commission interviewed 60 applicants for the three openings on the court that were created when voters ousted the three justices in November. Branstad says some of those who were interviewed have complained Wiggins exhibited a “lack of temperment” and did not treat all the candidates fairly.
“I know enough and I’ve heard enough from enough people that I think that he will face opposition,” according to the governor.
During an appearance on Iowa Public Television, Branstad was asked if he will take an active role in campaigning against Justice Wiggins retention in 2012. “The judicial branch of government is a separate branch (from the executive branch),” Branstad said. “And when I ran for governor last time (in 2010), I stayed out of that.”
Lt. Governor Sally Pederson, co-chair of Justice Not Politics, a group formed last fall to support the justices’ retention votes, called Wiggins an “extremely capable and fair member” of the Iowa Supreme Court.
“Retention questions are serious matters and if everyone in state government was judged on whether or not they get frustrated in five hour meetings, there would be a lot of people with targets on their back,” Pederson said.
A new group called “Focus on Iowa’s Future” has released a video criticizing the man who spearheaded last year’s campaign to oust the three supreme court justices. The group calls Bob Vander Plaats an “extremist” who is getting the support of key Republican presidential candidates like Newt Gingrich to carry an anti-court crusade into other states.