Editorial: Iowa Group 'Bullies' Judges

Election watchers who observed the role played by The Family Leader in Iowa’s judicial retention elections in 2010 and 2012 will note that the group remains active on the court front.  A Des Moines Register editorial  entitled “Family Leader Is Wrong to Try to Bully Judge”  covers recent action by the group, led by conservative activist Bob Vander Plaats.  A column in the same paper by columnist Rekha Basu takes aim at what it calls the group’s “vendetta campaign.”

According to the Register, The Family Leader refers to its part in a successful effort to unseat three Iowa Supreme Court Justices in 2010, in a direct threat against Polk County District Judge Karen Romano.   A recent ruling by Romano holds up implementation of an Iowa Board of Medicine regulation on medication abortions.

In a statement headlined “Remember the Romano,” The Family Leader references the 2010 judicial retention election and warns, “Apparently Judge Romano has not learned a lesson from that vote. The Family Leader encourages Iowans to remember Judge Karen Romano’s activism when she is up for retention in November 2016.

In its editorial, the Register  calls the statement a “pre-emptive attack on a judge” that “should not be tolerated in this state.”

Shot Fired Into Home of Federal Judge in Florida

At least one shot was fired into the home of a federal district judge in Florida. The judge, who was home, escaped injury in the early-morning shooting, and a window and glass door were shattered.

The FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, local Sheriff’s Office and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were investigating the shooting at the Jacksonville home of Judge Timothy Corrigan, the Florida Times-Union reported.


Race for Eastern Kentucky's State Supreme Court Seat Gets Ugly

Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott narrowly won a judicial race eight years ago against then Supreme Court Justice Janet Stumbo. The two are once again running against each other in this year’s election, and the rematch “is no nicer,” a Lexington Herald-Leader article says.

In his TV advertisements, Scott has accused Stumbo “of being soft on crime.” One such ad says that Stumbo voted to overturn the convictions of two black men for murdering a pregnant woman.

Stumbo is running an ad which says Scott voted against convicting a man of abusing his three children for confining them to their rooms without food, water or access to a bathroom.

The Kentucky Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee, which encourages judicial candidates to avoid false advertising, called Scott’s ad misleading because the images of pregnant white women it used were not involved in the case, the article reports. (more…)

Ohio GOP Ad Calls Judicial Dem. Candidate 'Sympathetic to Rapists'

A new ad released Wednesday by the Ohio Republican Party claims that Democratic Supreme Court candidate Bill O’Neill “sympathizes with rapists.” Republican Justice Robert Cupp has tried to distance himself from the ad and claimed he had no knowledge of its content, the Ohio Plain Dealer reports.

Mark Weaver, spokesman for Cupp’s campaign, said “Justice Cupp does not believe the purported ad is an appropriate approach to judicial campaigning, which is why he has not and would not approve a commercial like this.”

Matthew Henderson of the Ohio Republican Party confirmed that the ad was not brought to Justice Cupp’s attention beforehand, and that the party was doing it for themselves.

Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Jerid Kurtz argues that the “video is not possible without the consent of the campaign.” The ad refers to an opinion O’Neill wrote in 2000 which reversed a rape conviction, the article says. (more…)

Wisconsin Judge Gets Angry Letters and Emails Over Act 10 Ruling

Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan B. Colas (photo) has received outraged letters and phone calls after ruling earlier this month against parts of Act 10, Wisconsin’s law that restricted collective bargaining for many public employees.

Judge Colas was accused of being a “cheap political hack for the Marxist Democratic Party” in one letter, and a “damned liberal activist kangaroo jurist” in another, reports the Wisconsin Law Journal.

Other angry individuals cited his race, and called Colas a “racist for belonging to the Wisconsin Hispanic Lawyers Association.” These comments followed in the wake of Gov. Scott Walker’s petition attacking Colas for his ruling (see Gavel Grab).

Chief judge of the Fifth Judicial Administrative District, Bill Foust, criticized the harsh responses to Colas’ ruling as well as Gov. Walker’s attacks on the judge.

“The judges that I know work hard and try to apply the rules of law to the facts at hand,” Foust said. “I think it’s unfortunate that the leader of the executive branch has so little respect for the third branch of government. People who work for the government should be respectful of our fellow branches of government.”

Lester Pines, an attorney representing labor unions in the Act 10 case, said that although he did not hold Gov. Walker responsible for the “racist sentiments” of callers and letter writers, he argued that Walker should be accountable for “his demagogic and unrelenting attack on the integrity of the judiciary.”

Cullen Werwie, a Walker spokesman, said that the governor still stood by Act 10 as a constitutional law, and that he was not responsible for the negative correspondence sent to Judge Colas.

Wisconsin Gov. Walker Spearheads Petition Against Judge

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday launched a petition drive critical of Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas. Judge Colas recently ruled that many of Walker’s restrictions on collective bargaining rights for public workers were unconstitutional.

In response,  Walker’s petition labeled  Judge Colas  an “activist judge” who “chose to put politics ahead of your votes by striking down Governor Walker’s good government budget reforms,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. The petition continues:

“When the big special interests lose at the ballot box they turn to activist judges to legislate from the bench. The fight to defend the Wisconsin taxpayer is not over, and you have another chance to make your voice heard loud and clear. Please sign this petition today to stand with Governor Walker and his reforms that are working for Wisconsin families.”

The Sentinel also pointed out that Walker’s petition not only targets his supporters, but it also requires signers to note their email addresses and zip codes, which his campaign could use for fundraising purposes.

Lester Pines, an attorney for the union that had sued Walker, accused the governor of trashing the judicial system. Pines wrote in an email to the Sentinel, “Scott Walker should encourage people to respect the judiciary.” He continued, “Instead, just so he can raise money and gin up his base, he repeats the canard judges act politically rather than honestly interpreting the law.”

One Wisconsin Now, a progressive advocacy group, reacted with a counter petition that could also give it a fundraising boost. A part of the petition stated:  “Scott Walker attacked [Judge Colas’s] integrity. Now Walker has launched another attack and he’s trying to get as many names as possible to say that Wisconsin is on his side.”

Republican's Opinion: Ouster Campaign Focuses on 'Fear and Lies'

A Des Moines Register opinion piece criticized a continuing campaign to remove the Iowa Supreme Court justices who unanimously, in Varnum v. Brien, permitted same-sex people to marry. Three justices did not survive a retention vote in 2010, and this year there are calls to remove a fourth, Justice David Wiggins.

Joan Bolin, a corporate insurance lawyer and a former Republican candidate for Iowa state treasurer in 1998, described the campaign against the justices as “loaded with fear-mongering.” Iowans are being told, she wrote, “that due to the Varnum decision…the sanctity of heterosexual marriage is no longer protected and preserved.”

Bolin, a supporter of extending civil rights to same-sex people who marry, also criticized the Iowa Republican Party chairman’s reaction to the Varnum decision:

“The Republican chairman called the Supreme Court justices ‘political bureaucrats’ even though they do not belong to an administrative agency or executive bureau. He said that the justices were ‘arrogantly and deceitfully instituting law’ and that they ‘disregard years of legal precedent’ and ‘re-write history.’ Yet he offered no insight, record or factual information in support of his allegations.”

Far from “disregarding the law” and allowing “personal views to influence their decisions,” Bolin wrote, the Iowa  justices based their decision on “the force of law.”

She emphasized that the justices addressed a narrow issue, whether denying civil rights to homosexuals and not to heterosexuals violates the Iowa Constitution. The justices determined “‘yes,’” which was a unanimous decision and in Bolin’s view, a “humbl[e] and honest[] review [of] the Iowa Constitution.” To learn more about the latest ouster drive, see Gavel Grab.


Loughner Pleads Guilty in Rampage that Killed Judge

Jared Loughner, accused in an Arizona shooting spree that killed a federal judge and wounded a congresswoman, was found competent to stand trial on Tuesday and pleaded guilty to 19 charges.

In exchange, prosecutors will not seek the death penalty, according to an Associated Press article. Loughner will be imprisoned for life.

The defendant pleaded guilty in the murders of U.S. District John Roll and others including Gabe Zimmerman, an aide to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. He pleaded guilty to attempting to assassinate Giffords.

Six people were killed in the January 2011 shooting rampage and 13 were injured.


Editorial: Reaction to Pa. Ruling is Deeply Troubling

The public outcry against a Pennsylvania judge’s ruling should be a lesson in teaching tolerance, according to a Patriot-News editorial. Judges should not have to flee their chambers seeking safety, but this is what happens when the “rule of law is subverted by the whim of politics and the jackboot of bigotry,” the editorial said.

In February, Judge Mark Martin presided over a case concerning a physical altercation between two men at a Halloween parade. One man, a self-described atheist, was dressed as Zombie Muhammad, and reported to police that he was attacked by a “Muslim bystander.” The man was charged with harassment, and the case went on to the District Court. Martin dismissed the harassment charge, commenting that there should be tolerance and “respect for the religious beliefs of others.”

Later on for reasons unclear, the editorial says, a rumor spread that the judge had “declared himself a Muslim in the courtroom and betrayed a bias in favor of the Muslim defendant.” The allegation went viral, and Martin’s office received a flood of angry phone calls, some of which threatened “physical harm.” Due to the gravity of the threats, the judge’s office was temporarily relocated to the Carlisle courthouse, which, the editorial said, “inconvenienced the public and damaged the dignity of the judicial process.”

According to the editorial, Judge Martin considers himself a Lutheran, and denies making any statement that he is a Muslim. While urging more civil discourse, the editorial added that it is all too easy to spread “exaggeration and blatant untruth” in our fast-paced society.

The editorial states that Martin was attempting to make peace between “the nonbeliever and the Muslim,” yet was undermined by those acting in haste and thinking the worst of a judicial figure. Those with the loudest opinions should not rule over all, the editorial wrote, and the country should be a “sanctuary where respect and responsibility prevail,” instead of intolerance.