May 26 2011
An article in the Press-Citizen looks at the dangers of politicized retention elections in Iowa, and what that could mean for Iowa’s judicial system. In the wake of three Iowa Supreme Court justices being voted off the bench in the 2010 judicial retention election, there have been some concerns about money and politics impacting the judiciary. However, rather than calling for a change to the judicial selection process, the article encourages greater public education to ensure that the system functions as intended.
Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady acknowledges the dangers of politicized and expensive retention elections. Cady expressed his fear that when justices are removed based on court decisions the judiciary as a whole becomes politicized. Pointing out that the primary contributors to judicial campaigns are lawyers and businesses who come before the court, he notes that: “When people give money, they expect results over time.”
Cady believes in Iowa’s system, and hopes to preserve it and combat politicization through public education on the role of judges and the judicial system. He and the other justices have been working at this by travelling around the state and speaking with the public and high school groups. We agree that public education is a key component of any judicial selection system. In order for merit selection to provide and maintain a fair and impartial judiciary, it is vital that the public understand not only the role of the judiciary, but also the public’s role within the merit selection system. Retention elections, yes or no votes on whether a judge should remain on the bench, give the public the opportunity to weigh in on judicial performance. Judicial performance should be evaluated based on whether judges live up to their duties to be fair, impartial arbiters who provide equal access and respect to all who come before them.Tags: Iowa Supreme Court, Mark Cady, Merit Selection, Press-Citizen