Lawyers drop effort to keep ousted Supreme Court justices on bench

Three attorneys who are challenging last month’s judicial retention elections today withdrew their request for an injunction to allow Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices David Baker and Michael Streit to continue serving after December 31. The attorneys filed their lawsuit last week, saying the retention vote was illegal because the Iowa Constitution stipulates that judges “shall at such judicial election stand for retention in office on a separate ballot which shall submit to the question of whether such judge shall be retained in office […].” Lynda Waddington reports today that the lawsuit will go forward, but plaintiffs dropped their request to let Ternus, Baker and Streit continue to serve after learning that “the Iowa Judicial Branch and the justices removed from service were not in favor of it.”

A court will consider this lawsuit sometime next year. I believe it will go nowhere for reasons I discussed here. Iowa has been holding judicial retention elections in conjunction with general elections for nearly five decades. No one has ever demanded that voters be provided special ballots for the retention vote. IowaVoter points out that when Iowans approved the constitutional amendment on replacing judicial elections in 1962, lever machines rather than paper ballots were widely used. I share IowaVoter’s reading of the relevant passage in the constitution: it means that there must be a separate ballot line for each judge, so voters aren’t asked to retain or not retain the judges as a group.

Which do you think will get shot down first, Bleeding Heartland readers? This lawsuit challenging the legality of the retention vote, or statehouse Republicans’ efforts to impeach the remaining four Supreme Court justices?

Any comments about Iowa’s judicial system are welcome in this thread. I believe an impeachment spectacle during the 2011 legislative session will only make it harder for Governor-elect Terry Branstad to get lawmakers to pass the modest reform he favors (requiring partisan balance for judicial nominating commissions).

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