Branstad names impeachment advocate to Judicial Nominating Commission

I knew that Governor Terry Branstad was trying to fill the State Judicial Nominating Commission with conservatives and big Republican donors.

I knew that Branstad liked naming former state legislators to prominent positions, sometimes without considering anyone else for the job, sometimes even when the former lawmaker hadn’t asked for the job.

But until yesterday, I never imagined that Branstad would consider a Judicial Nominating Commission an appropriate place for someone who tried to impeach Iowa Supreme Court justices over the Varnum v Brien ruling on marriage.  

The governor’s office announced seventeen appointees to the Judicial Nominating Commissions and two appointees to the Iowa Parole Board. I’ve enclosed the news release containing the full list at the end of this post. Branstad tapped two former Iowa House Republicans for regional judicial nominating commissions: Royd Chambers and Betty De Boef.

De Boef’s name jumped out at me because in early 2011, she was among five House members who filed articles of impeachment against the four Iowa Supreme Court justices who had not been on the ballot for retention in 2010.

At the time, key House Republicans quickly signaled that they would not move forward on impeachment. But let’s revisit how idiotic De Boef’s effort was. Excerpting from Bleeding Heartland’s post of April 25, 2011:

House Resolution 47 calls for impeaching Justice Brent Appel, House Resolution 48 calls for impeaching Chief Justice Mark Cady, House Resolution 49 calls for impeaching Justice Daryl Hecht, and House Resolution 50 calls for impeaching Justice David Wiggins. Each bill cites the same five reasons, and the language resembles rhetoric we’ve heard in many Republican speeches denouncing marriage equality:

1. Each justice “improperly assumed the function and role of an elected legislator by ordering that the language in Iowa Code section 595.2 limiting civil marriage to a man and a woman must be stricken from the statute as enacted by the legislative department and approved by the governor of the executive department in 1998.”

2. Each justice “knowingly and intentionally usurped the proper function delegated solely and exclusively to the legislative department of declaring public policy, through his judicial declaration of a new public policy contrary to long-standing public policy acknowledged by society and established in Iowa Code section 595.2, subsection 1.”

3. Each justice “improperly required the executive department to issue marriage licenses to parties of the same sex in direct contravention of Iowa Code section 595.2.”

4. Each justice “created a constitutional crisis regarding the enforcement of the Varnum ruling by allowing different interpretations of the definition of marriage to exist indefinitely within the separate departments of government, leaving the people with no immediate remedy to address this crisis.”

5. Each justice “created a constitutional imbalance and confusion within the State of Iowa as to the proper constitutional function of each department, thus undermining the integrity of the tripartite separation of powers among the departments and creating social disorder and unrest.”

Points 1, 2 and 3 are laughable. Finding a law inconsistent with the constitution is nothing new for judges in Iowa or elsewhere. Nor is it improper for the executive branch to stop enforcing a law judges have struck down.

Point 4 is mystifying. An unpopular court ruling causes a “constitutional crisis” only in the imaginations of some conservative activists. At the time the Iowa Constitution was adopted, judicial review at the federal level had been well-established for decades. The state constitution lays out a process for amending the document. It says nothing about giving the public an “immediate remedy” for court rulings they dislike. A constitutional amendment to overturn same-sex marriage rights failed to advance in the Iowa House or Senate in 2009 and 2010. This year the amendment passed the Iowa House but stalled in the Iowa Senate. If citizens wanted quicker action on amending the constitution, they could have voted in November 2010 to convene a constitutional assembly this year. A ballot measure to that effect failed by a two to one margin.

Point 5 is my favorite. “Social disorder and unrest”–where and when? This Wednesday marks the second anniversary of the first same-sex marriages performed in Iowa after the Varnum v Brien ruling. The protests around the state on that day went peacefully and caused no major disruptions, even though same-sex marriage had been the top Iowa news story day after day in April 2009.

I admit, I’ve never found De Boef to be a highly discerning person. Neither did House Republican leaders, who passed her over for a committee chair position after the GOP retook the Iowa House majority in the 2010 elections.

Most of the time, the Iowa Senate confirms the governor’s appointees, barring some unusual concern over qualifications or ideology. This exceptional case goes way beyond any theoretical debate over how many conservatives are too many for the State Judicial Nominating Commission. Unfortunately, regional judicial nominating commission appointees are not subject to Senate confirmation.

De Boef has no concept of a judge’s proper role or how judges weigh laws against constitutional principles. Putting her on a commission that is supposed to select judges on their merits is an insult to Iowa’s court system. She belongs on that commission like I belong performing brain surgery.

Branstad should withdraw De Boef’s appointment.

Gov. Branstad makes appointments to judicial nominating commissions, Iowa Parole Board

February 4, 2014

Gov. Terry E. Branstad today announced his appointments to judicial nomination commissions and the Iowa Parole Board.

Iowa Parole Board

John Hodges, Vice Chair, Bondurant (Current term: 2/3/14 – 4/30/14; Full term: 5/1/14 – 4/30/14)

Susan Lerdal, layperson-member, Urbandale (Current term: 2/3/14 – 4/30/16)

The Iowa Parole Board appointments are subject to Senate confirmation.

Judicial Nominating Commissions

Judicial Nominating Commission District 1A

Dean Franzen, Elkader (Term: 2/1/14-1/31/20, vacancy filled)

Marsha Hauser, Edgewood (Term: 2/1/14-1/31/20)

Judicial Nominating Commission District 1B

Roger Hansen, New Hampton (Term: 2/1/14-1/31/20)

Judicial Nominating Commission District 2A

Carolyn Haugland, Clear Lake (Term: 2/1/14-1/31/20)

Judicial Nominating Commission District 2B

Amy Schroeder, Jefferson (Term: 2/1/14-1/31/20)

Judicial Nominating Commission District 3A

Royd Chambers, Sheldon (Term: 2/1/14-1/31/20)

Judicial Nominating Commission District 3B

Delana Ihrke, Le Mars (Term: 2/1/14-1/31/20)

Judicial Nominating Commission District 4

Mary Gunderson, Glenwood (Term: 2/1/14-1/31/20)

Judicial Nominating Commission District 5A

David Van Ahn, Panora (Term: 2/1/14-1/31/18, vacancy filled)

Nancy Garrett, Indianola (Term: 2/1/14-1/31/20)

Judicial Nominating Commission District 5B

Alec Turner, Corning (Term: 2/1/14-1/31/20)

Judicial Nominating Commission District 5C

Patti Brown, Des Moines (Term: 2/1/14-1/31/20)

Thomas Bernau, Des Moines (Term: 2/1/14-1/31/20)

Judicial Nominating Commission District 6

Karen Fesler, Coralville (Term: 2/1/14-1/31/20)

Judicial Nominating Commission District 7

Dawn Smith, Durant (Term: 2/1/14-1/31/20)

Judicial Nominating Commission District 8A

Betty De Boef, What Cheer (Term: 2/1/14-1/31/20)

Judicial Nominating Commission District 8B

Daniel Wiedemeier, Burlington (Term: 2/1/14-1/31/20)

The appointments to judicial nominating commissions are not subject to Senate confirmation.

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