Globe Gazette Editorial: Justice Wiggins should be retained

2012-10-21T00:01:00Z Globe Gazette Editorial: Justice Wiggins should be retained Mason City Globe Gazette
October 21, 2012 12:01 am

Two years ago we urged North Iowa voters to check the “yes” box on the issue of whether three Iowa Supreme Court justices should be retained in office. They were the subject of what we thought was an ill-advised, poorly reasoned and dangerous effort by a group of religious conservatives to kick the three out of office because they disagreed with one of the court’s decisions.

In 2009, the seven members of the Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously that an Iowa law defining marriage as only between one man and one woman was unconstitutional. That decision, in effect, legalized gay marriage in the state.

In Iowa, judges are appointed to their positions, but they go up for a retention vote at regular intervals so the people can decide if they should remain in office (every eight years for Supreme Court justices and every six years for other judges).

Three state Supreme Court justices came up for a retention vote in 2010. They were booted from office by the voters of Iowa. Not for malfeasance. Not for incompetence. Not for doing anything illegal. They were kicked out of office for doing their jobs to the best of their ability; for following the oath they took when they accepted the positions.

Fast-forward two years. Same issue. Same “vote no” campaign fostered by the same groups. Different justice.

This year Justice David Wiggins is the fourth member of that original court to come up for a retention vote.

Again a group lead by Bob Vander Plaats, largely funded with out-of-state money, is urging that Iowans rise up against “liberal, activist judges” who want to impose their own beliefs over the will of the people.

The arguments we raised two years ago still apply and bear repeating.

Whether you are in favor of legal same-sex marriage or not (we are in favor), voting out justices based on the popularity of their decisions rather than their competence in office introduces a troubling level of politics and potential coercion into the state’s judicial system that up to now had been a model of fairness for the rest of the nation.

If judges are voted out of office for unpopular decisions, then the likelihood arises that judges will consider the political implications of their decisions rather than the law when making those decisions.

The possibility also arises that justices could begin actively campaigning to retain their jobs, and that means raising funds to campaign and that means people, businesses and other organizations that donate to a judge’s campaign could expect considerations in return.

As we wrote two years ago, no judge should ever decide a case based on how he thinks it might affect his chances to keep his job. Our judges need to look at the facts in a case and apply the law, not stick a finger in the air to measure how the political winds are blowing.

The simple fact is that the 2009 ruling on the state’s marriage law was a legal opinion, not a moral one. The members of the Supreme Court at that time were Republicans and Democrats, and had been appointed by Republican and Democratic governors.

They made their ruling because the state marriage law did not fit within the guidelines of the Iowa Constitution, not because they favored or didn’t favor same-sex marriage. Even some Republicans at the time acknowledged that the marriage law had problems, and probably would not withstand judicial review.

Justice Wiggins has does nothing that disqualifies him for his position on the bench. He should be retained in office.


Copyright 2015 Mason City Globe Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(12) Comments

  1. a_x_pendergast
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    a_x_pendergast - October 25, 2012 11:38 pm
    You're right, GG. I'll vote on the competency of the justice. He got a 63% rating. That's a low D in a school grade. We can do MUCH better. Vote him OUT.
  2. Scotsman
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    Scotsman - October 22, 2012 3:27 pm
    It has nothing to do with disagreement and everything to do with the intellectual inability to understand what happened. Simpletons have an incorrect understanding of the Varnum case, the equal protection language in the Iowa constitution, and the eventual unanimous ruling that the court rendered. They have let their phobia and bigotry run amok. Chris Rants has no confusion about how it all came down.

    Thankfully, SCOTUS will take this up within a year and this nonsense will be settled.
  3. 4ever49
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    4ever49 - October 22, 2012 1:14 pm
    Scotsman – those that disagree with you are always “simpletons”? That’s your argument?
    Good luck with that.
  4. Scotsman
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    Scotsman - October 22, 2012 11:59 am
    "While all the details contained in the article my (sic) well be true, . . ." simpletons will ignore this and still punish a court out of spite, pettiness, and immaturity.

    Thankfully, SCOTUS will take this up within a year and this nonsense will be settled.

  5. ctknowlesbritt
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    ctknowlesbritt - October 22, 2012 11:25 am
    A very well reasoned article. I congratulate the writer for defining the issue and having the courage to voice an unpopular opinion. We cannot, as a nation devoted to freedom, allow basic civil rights to be decided by the majority. For example; assume a Democrat controlled legislature passed a bill to strip all voting rights from registered Republicans--- would we be willing to accept that as final? The obvious answer is no. Our Supreme Court stands as a firewall against that happening.
  6. 4ever49
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    4ever49 - October 22, 2012 10:10 am
    While all the details contained in the article my well be true, the fact of the matter is that the voters do not like and will not support the outcome of the decision.
    Gronstal continues to block the voter’s access to their right for an amendment to the state constitution on this issue.
    Perhaps the court would be well advised to have a heart-to-heart chat with him.
  7. Scotsman
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    Scotsman - October 21, 2012 2:06 pm
    It was all there in black and white and former Republican house speaker Chris Rants affirmed it. Are you calling Mr. Rants an idiot?
  8. Scotsman
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    Scotsman - October 21, 2012 12:13 pm
    We went over this last week - you still have it wrong. It's amazing how religion-induced retardation prevents some people from absorbing the facts and rationale for the unanimous decision that even former Republican house speaker Chris Rants admits could not have gone any other way.
  9. AL4USA
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    AL4USA - October 21, 2012 11:20 am
    Clearly the justices broke the law by ruling county clerks issue same-sex marriage licenses.
  10. r2renewal
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    r2renewal - October 21, 2012 9:23 am
    I think the Globe Gazette did a fine job of writing this editorial - thumbs up!

    As for the 2-comments, get a life! Open your eyes... your mind... your hearts for the Spirit of Truth will illuminate against your discord... your contempt... your bigotry. This I pray through Christ Jesus our Saviour. Amen, Amen!!
  11. JB Johnson of Britt
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    JB Johnson of Britt - October 21, 2012 8:36 am
    "largely funded with out-of-state money" You mean like C Vilsack?
    "jobs to the best of their ability" stepping over the line questions their ability. Also Wiggins has a 63% rate while the others on the ballot are in the mid 90s

    You want to hear a great audio debate on this?

    Jan and Guy Cook of Iowa Bar Assn have it out. Vigorous
  12. bt
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    bt - October 21, 2012 7:08 am
    75% of Iowans did not like the fact that 7 mealy-mouthed dictators made up their own version of what the Iowa Constitution says and means. The Varnum decision is likely one of the most liberal, activist interpretations of any constitution. If the court didn't have a political agenda to strike down DOMA, it would have behaved like an impartial branch of government and returned DOMA to the legislature for modification or revocation. The power of the courts has to be slapped down HARD.
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