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GOP House members seek impeachment of Iowa justices for same-sex marriage decision
Iowa House Republicans drew an immediate negative reaction late Thursday when they filed four articles of impeachment, one for each remaining member of the Iowa Supreme Court that participated in an April 2009 decision that struck down a legislative ban on same-sex marriage as a violation of the state’s equal protection clause.
The four House resolutions target Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady (HR 48) and Justices Brent Appel (HR 47), Daryl Hecht (HR 49) and David Wiggins (HR 50) for “malfeasance in office” specifically for their ruling in the Varnum v. Brien case, saying that each justice “exercis[ed] functions properly belonging to the legislative and executive departments.”
Rep. Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines, a member of Democratic leadership, immediately challenged House Speaker Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) and Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer (R-Garner) to speak against the actions taken by their caucus members.
“I issue the following challenge to Speaker Paulsen and Majority Leader Upmeyer on the proposed impeachment of the remaining Supreme Court Justices … either publicly condemn your own Republican members as well as members of the Republican Party for offering this outrageous, extremist proposal … or allow a full and open impeachment proceeding for all Iowans to consider knowing House Democrats will use every available procedural tool to shut down the Iowa House and defeat this right-wing effort,” said McCarthy.
“I suspect, however that the House Republican Leadership will do neither and instead remain cowardly silent. If that is true, then let it be clear to all Republicans where the House Republican Leadership truly stands on this issue.”
The articles of impeachment drafted and filed by the five legislators were also immediately attacked by Justice Not Politics, a nonpartisan group that formed in advance of the 2010 retention election in hopes of bolstering support for the three justices on the November ballot and to stress the non-political nature of the Iowa Judicial Branch.
“The threat by five legislators to impeach the State Supreme Court Justices is only a sad attempt to misuse the impeachment process for political gain, but completely out of touch with Iowans,” read the Justice Not Politics statement. “Thousands of Iowans signed on to Justice Not Politics’ letter against impeachment, and two polls released this year found an overwhelming majority of Iowans oppose impeachment.
“We are confident legislators and Iowans will reject this ridiculous effort by a small, but loud minority to placate their extreme agenda to inject politics and discrimination into our court system.”
Despite the work of Justice Not Politics and other smaller and sparsely funded organizations formed in support of the state judiciary, Iowans voted to oust all three Supreme Court Justices who stood for routine retention votes last fall. It was the first time voters had chose not to retain high justices since the state adopted it’s current merit-based selection and retention process in 1962.
Opposition to retention was led by Bob Vander Plaats, who formed Iowa for Freedom following an unsuccessful GOP gubernatorial primary bid. The ouster movement was well financed by out-of-state anti-gay interest groups. Currently, Vander Plaats is employed as head of The Family Leader organization, which has traveled the state in hopes of “building on the momentum” of the November ousters.
Although Republicans hold a majority in the Iowa House, it remains doubtful that the articles of impeachment will live beyond their referral to the Judiciary Committee.