Top Stories

Open letter to readers: Today and tomorrow

By Lynda Waddington | 11.17.11

Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.

ACS lockout continues; plan emerges to repeal sugar protections

By Virginia Chamlee | 11.15.11

A recently introduced bill could have far-reaching impact on the U.S. sugar industry, including American Crystal Sugar, a farmer-owned cooperative that locked out 1,300 Midwest workers on Aug. 1.

Cain campaign: Farmers know more about regulations than EPA

By Andrew Duffelmeyer | 11.15.11

The chairman for Herman Cain’s Iowa effort says the campaign “relied more on the word of farmers than Washington regulators” in deciding to run an ad containing claims the Environmental Protection Agency says are false.

Mathis wins, Democrats maintain Senate control

Liz Mathis
By Lynda Waddington | 11.08.11

The Iowa Senate will remain under the control of a slim 26-25 Democratic majority when it reconvenes in January 2012.

Press Release

PR: Nation should work to address veterans’ challenges

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

BRUCE BRALEY RELEASE — As US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan ends, it’s more important than ever that our nation works to address the challenges faced by the men and women who fought there.

PR: Honoring veterans, help in hiring

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

CHUCK GRASSLEY RELEASE — A difficult job market is challenging the soldiers, sailors and airmen who have protected America’s interests by serving in the Armed Forces.

PR: In honor of America’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

TOM LATHAM RELEASE — No one has done more to secure the freedom enjoyed by every single American than our veterans and those currently serving in the armed services.

PR: Honoring and supporting our nation’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

DAVE LOEBSACK RELEASE — Veterans Day is an opportunity to reflect on the service of generations of veterans and to honor the sacrifices they and their families have made so that we may live in peace and freedom here at home.

supreme court 500x171

Bills would change Iowa’s judicial nominating system

By Tyler Kingkade | 02.16.11 | 2:38 pm

During the campaign, Gov. Terry Branstad refused to speak about the retention election three state Supreme Court justices faced. However, he did say he wanted to change the way judges are nominated and mentioned he’d like a system similar to one used at the federal level, where he would nominate someone who would then have to be confirmed by the Iowa Senate.

House Republicans have answered Branstad’s wish with House Joint Resolution 12, which would throw out the current judicial selection method and replace it with the federal system. Under the current system, known as the Missouri Plan, appointments are nominated by an independent commission, then sent to the governor for a final selection. Branstad is currently reviewing the nine nominees for the three vacancies on the high court. He’s been given 30 days to make his three selections.

The resolution repeals the Missouri Plan effective Jan. 1, 2015, and would also include the same process for district court appointments. The Court of Appeals is left untouched.

If passed, the proposed amendment to the state constitution would need to be passed again in 2013 before going on the ballot in the following election to be ratified by voters.

Branstad voiced his opposition to the current system in an August interview on WHO-AM.

“I think the system is flawed,” Branstad said. “That’s the frustrating thing as governor. You only get to choose from the three that are nominated for the Supreme Court or District Court from two.”

The measure does not include anything on how long justices would serve. House Joint Resolution 13 explains that: Each Supreme Court justice would serve for six years after serving an initial term of office of up to two years. A Supreme Court justice or a district judge would not serve more than two succeeding terms of office.

HJR12 and 13 sponsors include Iowa Republican Reps. Dwayne Alons, Tom Shaw, Kim Pearson, Royd Chambers and Betty De Boef. Republicans Glen Massie and Mark Lofgren also signed on to HJR 12.

The League of Women Voters and the Iowa State Bar Association have already declared their opposition to the proposed amendments. No registered lobbyist has declared support.

Follow Tyler Kingkade on Twitter


  • Anonymous

    No. Just no. Please don’t make our judiciary another winner-takes-all political arena!

    If anything, I’d like to see a change on the retention vote. How about a 67% majority required to oust judges? Or a requirement that the people making the decisions have some knowledge of what those judges do and have done? If there had been a question as simple as “Did the Iowa Supreme Court make a new law with the Varnum decision?” or even “Which case has caused you to vote out these judges: A. Barnum; B. Smith; C. Wringling; D. Varnum”, I’m pretty sure most of the people who voted against retention would have failed.

    We have a system that allows competent judges to be fired by uninformed people. If something needs to be changed, let’s start with that!

    • Republican

      Can’t agree with a test requirement to vote. That won’t end well.

      • Anonymous

        Even just for judges? No, I know it’s not remotely feasible; I just really don’t like that three very competent people lost their jobs due to their own diligence and adherence to Constitutional law…and some people still don’t understand that Varnum could not have been decided any other way.

        Last November’s ouster was an eye-opener; I genuinely didn’t think so many Iowans would fall for the ad scare tactics and deliberate mislabeling. It forces me to be a lot less confident in Iowa’s sensibility and level-headedness. I don’t want judges campaigning…it’s bad enough we can’t keep our legislature at their jobs, and defense of their decisions shouldn’t have to be repeated outside the decisions themselves. Perhaps if they’d held a big, flashy press conference instead of getting on with their jobs, they’d have been retained. But I admire them for quietly making a ground-breaking determination, as if defense of human rights and equality was all in a day’s work.

        Of course, in Iowa, it was.

        • Wendy Peterson

          Because of one of my opinions in a previous post, LIBERailTY told me that “you’d have been forced to drown yourself from self-loathing.”

          I don’t think even the Supreme Court Justices who lost their job would support that type of derogatory language.

          • egc52556

            I’m no fan of Wendy Peterson’s politics, but in this one instance she is correct.

          • Wendy Peterson

            Then quit “clicking” that you “Like” LIBERaliTY’s posts.

          • Anonymous

            *sigh* At the risk of still feeding, I’m just going to point out that I didn’t suggest she should, but instead used hyperbole to allude to her evident contempt for Ivy League education.

            BTW, Wendy, nice out-of-context cross threading. Very germane. But a reader doesn’t have to agree with everything I say to agree with some of it. It’s not an all-or-nothing world.

          • egc52556

            I “Like”-d LIBERaliTY’s intent but didn’t like all of the language he used to express it.

            I “Like”-d Wendy Peterson’s call for less derogatory language.

            So it turns out this LIKE button isn’t subtle enough, just like so much of the public discourse about our politics and society.

            I’m torn between clicking LIKE if I like the politics of the post and clicking LIKE because I like the way the point was made even though I disagree with it.

          • Anonymous

            *grin* You can muddy the metaphorical waters further by liking AND reporting. How’s that for fun?

            I’m afraid I’m ‘like’ly to continue peppering some responses with caustic hyperbole. Quiet logic tends to only work with the quietly logical, I find, and some days I get a tad frustrated at the loss of quiet logic as a basis for governing the state I used to ‘like’.

            Maybe politicians need ‘like’ buttons…and ‘unlike’. I wonder how that would change their perception of the will of the people, if at all?

    • Wendy Peterson

      Bucking the system and telling regular citizens they are uniformed is a dangerous proposiiton. LIBERaliTY is starting to sound that like guy over in Egypt. What’s his name? Oh yeah, Hosni Mubarak, he’s fixed more elections over 30 years than you can shake a stick at because he didn’t think his people were too smart.

      Over in Egypt with Mubarak, it would be like one Iowa Supreme Court Justice getting outsted per day.

      • Anonymous

        Many who voted to oust the judges were uninformed or misinformed. The judges were punished for doing their jobs by people who opposed the unanimous decision that affirmed a Constitutional Right to Equal Protection Under Law. It wasn’t a split decision, it wasn’t a long stretch to decide as they did. Many who voted against these judges were misled by some theo-fundi-nutters who think their faith should be imposed on all, constitution be damned. Yep, a bunch of sheeple led by evil shepherds.

        • Wendy Peterson

          The retention election just goes to show that people don’t appreciate it when they are ignored and regarded as “dumb” by government officials. If you think three Supreme Court Justices losing their job is one of the worst things ever, what would you be saying right now if Bob VanderPlaats had won the November election? It would have been possible for him to issue an executive order to stop same-sex marriage AND appoint three conservative justices to the court.

          • Anonymous

            In the words of Hollywood from 2 Stupid Dogs, “Well isn’t that cute?…But it’s wrong!”
            An executive order doesn’t trump a supreme court decision. You’re proving my point regarding the misinformed or uninformed nature of some voters.
            Also, neither Gov. Branstad nor a hypothetical Gov. BVP gets to “appoint conservative justices to the court”. The Gov. gets to select one person from a group of three he is given by the State Judicial Nominating Commission.
            Really, do you guys even take civics classes or do any research before going off on your rants?

          • Wendy Peterson

            Let me explain this to you RegularJoe because you are the one who has it backwards and because this is such an important topic you must understand how this could have worked out. There are currently nine potential justices up for nomination, correct? According to the nominating commission, these nine nominees represent diverse legal and political backgrounds. The Governor can pick three of the nine nominees to fill the three vacant spots on the Supreme Court.

            As Bob VanderPlaats campaigned on ending same-sex marriage by executive order, if he would have been elected, he could have hypothetically issued the executive order and then picked the three most conservative justices out of the group of nine nominees. And there are conservative and liberals in the group of nine…

            Furthermore, there is a good chance that the executive order that banned same-sex marriage would have went to the Iowa Supreme Court.

            ATTENTION ALL LIBERALS: Now is the time to take notice of what could have happened. Bob VanderPlaats could have won the primary and general elections and the three justices would have probably been outsed in the same fashion. Then, Bob VanderPlaats could have issued his infamous executive order and appointed the three most conservative justices out of the nine. Then, the executive order would have wound up in court, probably all the way up to the Iowa Supreme Court. So, with three new sitting members on the court, all it would take is one vote from a sitting justice to make it a 4-3 decision in favor of upholding the aforementioned executive order and overturning the 2009 Varnum decision. Getting one justice to change his mind would not be difficult considering there is another retention election in 2012.

            That possible scenario should be enough to make Iowa liberals into Gov. Terry Branstad fans.

          • Anonymous

            Not even close, but thanks for playing.

          • Wendy Peterson

            It’s closer than you ever got.

          • Anonymous

            Say good night, Gracie.

          • Wendy Peterson

            Does that post make any more sense in the morning?

          • Anonymous

            Branstad must stand on his own merits, not on his merits in contrast to a hypothetical Governor BVP, who would be eligible for impeachment the moment he issued his ‘infamous executive order’. And despite its political diversity, from liberal to conservative to unaffiliated, the ISC has a history of adhering to Constitutional law, not political ideology. So regardless of who could be appointed, you’d still have a majority who had already made a determination on the DOMA for sound, constitutionally-based reasons, and would be unlikely to suddenly flip flop on it just because an illegal executive order had been issued.

            As to whether they would find that executive order itself to be legal? Um. Pretty damn unlikely.

        • Anonymous

          Heh. “‘Theo-fundi-nutters”. Love it.

  • egc52556

    If Branstad’s problem is that he doesn’t have enough candidates to choose from, then let’s modify the system to give him more. I’m sure the committee could offer up 6 or 9 names.

    The current system works well enough to reduce the politics of choosing judges. No need to completely replace it with a process that will definitely increase the politics.

  • Anonymous

    One thing that I haven’t seen in this conversation is, if Iowa moves to a more Federal-like system, we may start seeing nominees like George W. Bush’s pick of Harriet Miers who was lauded on both side of the isle, and to be fair I’m sure their are some potential justices nominated by Democratic presidents that failed to meet the bar i just cant think of any. So to the conservatives commentors even though you may dislike the decision sent down from the IASC, I would be willing to bet that they are on the basis of qualifications better than the vast majority of states.

    • Wendy Peterson

      Harriet Miers was never confirmed and it turned out to be a very poor political decision for President Bush. With the nomination system as it stands today in Iowa, it would have been very likely that Bob VanderPlaats could have successfully ended same-sex marriage.

      • Anonymous

        I feel that the conversation should not be what could have happened had VanderPlatts won, but what could happen if this Constitutional Amendment is approved at all the various levels it needs to be approved on. This CA is not merely a reworking of Iowa selection, it would fundamentally change the fabric of the state judiciary. It is one thing to hold a justice(s) accountable for a bad decision, or derilection of duty, what is far worse is reworking a system that has proven to be far better than any other state’s framework for judicial selection because the justices handed down a decision that was disliked by your party. The job of the Judiciary ought to be protecting the weak from majority tyranny, not handing down politically convenient rulings.

        • Wendy Peterson

          I mostly agree with your opinion but don’t that important pieces of the conversation should be censored, such as (1) what could have happened if Bob VanderPlaats won or (2) ways to improve the judicial nominating system.

          Furthermore, I take the controversial position that the justices were not ousted because of the Varnum decision but were instead ousted because voters wanted more “control” of their government. In other words, people are misreading why the justices were ousted.

          • Anonymous

            So I suppose to to address your first point about not “censoring” the conversation about VanderPlatts, perhaps I should seek not to uninclude him, but simply focus on what he actually did do, not what he would have done had his gubernatorial hopes come true.

            If you assumption is correct about the voting public wanting more control over their government, than there should be some call to have an election based system for selecting SC justices. While there may be some truth that the citizens were trying to take back control of their government through deciding not retain the justices. I feel that most of the rhetoric surrounding the citizens of Iowa who visited VanderPlatts was in fact, simply that, rhetoric, used to scare and intimidate those willing to be scared and intimidated about the decision. Thats the funny thing about rhetoric, if you say it loud enough, long enough, and hard enough it sometimes becomes true. It always reminds me of George Orwell’s 1984.

            I do however feel that there is much stronger evidence to show that a very effective campaign run by VanderPlatts and others (The former even purchased a booth at the Iowa State Fair, which had a pretty solid turn out on the day I was there) to mislead the public about what the impact of the Varnum case was, and that those 9 justices were not in fact upholding the Iowa Constitution, but instead they were engaged in legislating from the bench.

          • Anonymous

            I would certainly agree with that last; I think a number of people were led to believe that decision amounted to tyrannous usurption of power from one branch by another. I even know pro-gay marriage people who believe that, and some who voted justices out in response. Add to this misled group the numerous people who feel like gay marriage should not have received protection, regardless of the Constitution, and you have a very motivated group getting out their vote. Meanwhile, a lot of people who just take a ‘live and let live’ attitude did not feel there was a need to get to the polls. So 55% voted Tierney out…but 55% of the people who voted, not of the people who could vote. The majority didn’t seem to have an opinion one way or another.

            Sometimes I wonder if we shouldn’t be looking at the proportion to those who are eligible to vote, rather than those who do vote. Passivity skews the perspective; extremist views suddenly appear like majority views, and people accept them, since apparently so many people clearly express those views. Impressing upon the passive majority the need for them to weigh in for the middle ground seems to have failed.

          • Anonymous

            To me it was no surprise that the judges were voted out, not because in my heart of hearts I wanted them to be out, because I did not. I felt the Varnum case was an important one, and the decision was both well rendered and correct in its logic and constitutional accuracy. In fact when Justice Cady wrote:

            “We are firmly convinced the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage does not substantially further any important governmental objective. The legislature has excluded a historically disfavored class of persons from a supremely important civil institution without a constitutionally sufficient justification. There is no material fact, genuinely in dispute, that can affect this determination.”

            It was not only using Iowa law precedent, but also a precedent used by the Hawaii Supreme Court in late 90s saying essentially the same thing, that no one party, state or otherwise has ever been able to show an interest so vital to the state’s wellbeing that a whole group of people ought to be oppressed because of the way they were born. Furthermore, it goes without saying that the previous law clearly violates the equal protection clause of both the Iowa and US Constitution.

            The six couples were not suing simply because they were denied a marriage licenses, they sued because they were being denied the rights afforded to them by the constitutions under which they are governed. The same constitutions that give them the right to free speech and religion also affords them the rights of equal protection under the law. Equality is what they were denied, plain and simple.

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