Gavel Grab

Will IA Impeachment Proposal Stall?

A key Iowa Republican thinks it’s unlikely that legislators will impeach four state Supreme Court justices.

“I don’t believe there’s any likelihood of impeachment,” said state Rep. Richard Anderson, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which would have to clear articles of impeachment before the full state House could take them up, according to a Radio Iowa report.

“I haven’t done any kind of person-by-person inquiry….but I do not believe from the feedback I’m getting from colleagues that there’s a majority of House Republicans that think impeachment is an appropriate remedy in this case,” Anderson said.

Several House Republicans are drafting articles to impeach the four justices who remain on the high court bench after voters dumped three of their colleagues on Election Day. The driving issue in the ouster vote was the high court’s unanimous ruling in 2009 that permitted same-sex marriages.

Anderson holds the personal view, the Des Moines Register reported, that the high court’s action doesn’t meet impeachment standards set in the Iowa Constitution. The state Constitutional  allows for impeachment of a justice in the event of malfeasance in office, or when a misdemeanor is committed.

The legislator had at one point applied to to be considered for one of the court’s three current openings. He has changed his mind. Anderson made his remarks after Iowa Chief Justice Mark S. Cady delivered remarks Wednesday on the state of Iowa’s judiciary, in which he defended the gay marriage ruling and Iowa’s merit-based system for selecting judges.

Reaction to Justice Cady’s speech was divided:

  • Justice Cady “came in here with a pompous, arrogant attitude and tried to give the legislature a history lesson,” state Sen. Kent Sorenson, a Republican, said.
  • “I was proud of the Chief Judge … and his explanation to Iowans to what the true role of the courts is. If by a popular vote we can take somebody’s rights away, then by popular vote we can take anybody’s votes away and that’s really the translation of what he said today,” said Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, a Democrat.
  • Kathie Obradovich, who writes commentary in the Des Moines Register, said Justice Cady failed to confront the kind of critique that had been raised effectively by a conservative leader of the ouster drive. She wrote:

“What Cady failed to address was the emotional argument that court critics like Bob Vander Plaats have used to great effect: That justices are elitist, set apart from the public and bent on imposing their own warped moral code on the rest of us.

“Those class-war arguments will continue to make headway until Cady and those who support merit selection find a way to humanize their arguments. Pointing to the acceptance over time of civil-rights rulings does little today for those who fear the erosion of the nation’s moral bedrock.”

Meanwhile the new dean of the University of Iowa law school, Gail Agrawal, said in an Associated Press interview that legal leaders didn’t do enough to counter the ouster drive last fall.

“We have not done as much as we could have and should have to educate the electorate about judicial independence, the importance of an impartial judiciary, the role of judges, and the general purpose of a retention election,” she said.

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