Religious right will target three Iowa Supreme Court justices in 2010

Social conservatives made clear at yesterday’s rally against gay marriage that they will try to remove Iowa Supreme Court justices next year:

“This is only the beginning,” said Danny Carroll, a former legislator and now chairman of the conservative Iowa Family Policy Center. “We will remember and we will remember in November.”

Chuck Hurley, also a former legislator and president of the policy center, noted that in addition to legislators and Gov. Chet Culver, three Iowa Supreme Court justices would face retention elections next year.

That includes Chief Justice Marsha Ternus.

“Maybe she will know how it feels after November of 2010,” said Hurley.

Justices Michael Streit and David Baker also will be up for retention elections next year. The Supreme Court struck down the state’s gay marriage ban on a 7-0 decision.

“Three judges on the ballot. We will remember next November,” Hurley said. “You are not fooling anyone.”

In Iowa, judges are appointed through a merit-selection process that was approved by voters in the 1960s. Voters decide whether to keep a judge in office. Supreme court judges are up for retention every eight years, while court of appeals and district court judges are up every six years.

I automatically vote to retain every judge, whether conservative, moderate or liberal, unless I have heard from trusted attorneys that the judge is incompetent or corrupt. In more than two decades of voting I’ve only voted against retention once or twice. I’ve disagreed with some court rulings, just like Hurley and Carroll disagree with the Varnum v Brien decision. But our justice system depends on judges being able to interpret the law without fear of reprisal.

The threats from Carroll and Hurley underscore how extremism has become mainstream for Iowa Republicans. These are not fringe wackos; Carroll and Hurley are both former state legislators.

Marsha Ternus has 16 years of experience on Iowa’s high court. She was appointed by Republican Governor Terry Branstad (as was Mark Cady, the author of the Varnum v Brien decision). Streit and Baker also have lengthy and distinguished legal careers. Yet that means nothing, because social conservatives want to impose their religious beliefs on everyone.

We’ll need to remember to tell our friends to vote yes on retaining all judges in November 2010. Many people never bother to fill out the back side of the ballot.

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