Supreme Court justices ousted in retention vote

Daily Staff

In an unprecedented move, Iowans voted not to retain three Supreme Court justices who voted to legalize gay marriage in Iowa in 2009.

A campaign initiated by politician and businessman Bob Vander Plaats found enough votes to remove the judges from their benches. Vander Plaats claimed the justices were guilty of judicial activism when they voted to legalize marriage for homosexual couples under the Iowa Constitution.

Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices Michael Streit and David Baker were all unseated in their bid for retention, a vote which occurs every eight years or the first year following a judge’s appointment.

Vander Plaats and other conservative groups campaigned heavily around the state in order to encourage voters to flip the ballot and vote to kick out what he described as activist judges. By allowing gay couples to marry, Vander Plaats and his supporters said other rights held by Iowans, such as rights to guns and private property, were also in jeopardy.

“Most Americans believe that government is out of control,” according to Iowa for Freedom website. “Now is the time to take a stand against the radical judicial activism of the Iowa Supreme Court.”

The justices and a coalition of moderates and liberals through the group Justice Not Politics fought to remind voters that Supreme Court justices are not politicians and should be judged based on their commitment to honoring the Iowa Constitution.

“I’m afraid that that is a serious blow to the independence of our judicial system,” said State Sen. Herman Quirmbach. “It frankly is not a constructive vote. What got people upset was the one court decision, and the vote does nothing to alter that. It’s really just slapping back the justices who, as far as I’m concerned, were doing their sworn duty.”

With staggering numbers of Iowans voting to remove the judges from the bench, ousted Gov. Chet Culver will have to decide whether to appoint new Supreme Court justices in the time remaining in his term.