law executive order was likely unconstitutional. I know that is up for debate, but one thing I think we all can agree on is that it would have been at best a temporary fix.
So what can be done? None of these ideas are original, but I wanted to share some of them here.
Three things Iowans can do in regards to address the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA in November:
Vote no on retention, the Iowa Constitution allows for each judge from juvenile court judges, to district court judges, appellate court judges to Supreme Court justices to be on the ballot every eight years so citizens can vote on retention. Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, Justice Michael Streit, and Justice David Baker are all up for retention – you can vote no.
Vote yes on a Constitutional Convention. This appears on the ballot every ten years. In a convention the delegates would rewrite or add amendments to our state’s Constitution. The next General Assembly will determine how delegates are chosen, but they don’t have any say over the Constitution itself, we the people can elect responsible delegates. The people of Iowa would then vote on each individual change (Section 29, Article III of the Iowa Constitution). You can learn more at Call The Convention.
Work to help sound conservative candidates get elected to the Iowa House and Iowa Senate. That is the most important thing in the long-term, and prospects are looking good for the Iowa House and possibly making some good gains in the Iowa Senate (I’m not as optimistic as Iowa Senate Republican Leader Paul McKinley).
Things that can be done in the future via the traditional amendment process or at the Convention should it be called:
Deep six the Missouri Plan for selecting judges. Currently the Iowa Constitution states: “Vacancies in the supreme court and district court shall be filled by appointment by the governor from lists of nominees submitted by the appropriate judicial nominating commission. Three nominees shall be submitted for each supreme court vacancy, and two nominees shall be submitted for each district court vacancy. If the governor fails for thirty days to make the appointment, it shall be made from such nominees by the chief justice of the supreme court,” (Section 15,Article V of the Iowa Constitution).
In the nominating commissions only half are appointed by the Governor, with half being elected by members of the Iowa State Bar Association, (Section 16, Article V of the Iowa Constitution). Why in the world should the Bar Association be given that much influence? It is a better process, I believe, when the Governor can directly appoint and the the Senate confirms. Get the nominating commissions, along with the Iowa State Bar Association, out of the picture. Have people who are directly accountable to “We The People” decide.
Retention vote every two (or at the very least, four) years – Supreme Court Justices terms are eight years before they are up for a retention vote. District Court judges terms are up every six, (Section 17, Article V of the Iowa Constitution). Their terms should not be any longer than an elected officials. Having to wait eight years in between retention votes doesn’t help with accountability when a bad decision is made.
Term limits for justices – I think we need term limits across the board. And looking at Section 17, Article V of the Iowa Constitution, I don’t believe even an amendment since there is not prescribe terms and it states, “Members of all courts shall have such tenure in office as may be fixed by law, but terms of supreme court judges shall be not less than eight years and terms of district court judges shall be not less than six years.” I could be wrong on that, but it looks like an entry into the Iowa Code would suffice.
An automatic stay for judicial decisions declaring a law unconstitutional – An amendment requiring an automatic stay on a judicial decision for say 60-90 days until the Iowa Legislature acts to respond to the ruling. Once they do a stay is extended until the Legislature is finished addressing the ruling either via Code or via an Amendment process (which then the stay is extended longer until the people can vote).
Limiting the jurisdiction of the Court over a certain matter – The Legislative branch has the Constitutional authority to do this. Section 4, Article V of the Iowa Constitution says, “The supreme court shall have appellate jurisdiction only in cases in chancery, and shall constitute a court for the correction of errors at law, under such restrictions as the general assembly may, by law, prescribe; and shall have power to issue all writs and process necessary to secure justice to parties, and shall exercise a supervisory and administrative control over all inferior judicial tribunals throughout the state.” So when the Iowa Supreme Court declared the Iowa Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, the Iowa Legislature could have said, “thank you for your opinion, but we are restricting you from having jurisdiction over this matter.”
It would take the right make-up in the Iowa General Assembly to do that. There are appropriate checks and balances. The Governor can nominate, the Senate confirms. The General Assembly passes a law, the Governor can veto it. The General Assembly can in turn override the veto. The Judiciary has been operating like it doesn’t have any checks after judges are nominated and confirmed. That simply isn’t the case, and “We The People” must remind them of what their role is. It isn’t to make law.