What's next for ousted Iowa judges? - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

What's next for ousted Iowa judges?


BLACK HAWK CO. (KWWL) --Voters made history last night, deciding to kick out Iowa Supreme Court justices for the first time in state history.  Justices David Baker, Michael Streit, and Marsha Ternus will leave the bench in the New Year.

Opposition in the race was mainly centered around one decision:  gay marriage.  And the vote not to retain the three justices could have long-lasting effects on the courts, including future retention votes.

Three of Iowa's Supreme Court justices will soon be hanging up their robes after you voted not to retain them.  We're told the ousted judges might not be able to get re-appointed for at least two years.  And it's unlikely that Governor Chet Culver will have the chance to replace the justices because the selection process can be lengthy.

"There are a limited number of people who could credibly be seen as being qualified and could be on the state Supreme Court.  The law states that the selection commission should submit up to three names to the governor.  And tradition has been that they always submit three names.  So you're talking about trying to find nine qualified people to be on the Iowa Supreme Court," said Scott Peters, University of Northern Iowa associate professor of political science.

And even though the Republicans fighting to oust the judges got their way, they may not be successful in bringing more conservative justices to the bench.  That's because the panel that selects new justices will stay the same.  But no matter who takes to the high court next, one thing seems certain.

"I would think that if same sex marriage continues to be a big issue, especially among conservative Republicans, that this success would embolden them and make them likely to challenge the retention of the other justices as well," Peters said.

That means judges may be forced to campaign too, in order to persuade your decision on whether they'll stay on the high court.

Iowa is not entirely unique in this situation.  A similar justice dismissal happened in California in 1986.  A total of three judges, including the Chief Justice, were not retained after a campaign that focused on their opposition to the death penalty.

And this year, there was an unsuccessful campaign to unseat an Illinois Supreme Court Justice.  Business organizations unhappy with some of that justice's rulings spent millions on a campaign to oust him.  But the justice fought back with his own campaign and was retained to the bench.

Additional note:

Experts tell us the justices losing their seats does not affect decisions they made while serving on the court.  Lamda Legal issue the following statement:

"Let's be clear about what happened in Iowa and what didn't happen: Three skilled jurists lost their jobs, but the Court's ruling in the case allowing same-sex couples to marry is still the law of the land, enshrined in the Iowa Constitution.  Same-sex couples continue to marry in Iowa. Anti-gay groups have lost on the big issue - equality - and they are attacking our courts for protecting it."

Also, the state Supreme Court will still be able to conduct businesses even if the newly vacated seats are not filled quickly.  The four remaining justices are enough for a quorum to hear cases.

KWWL Reporter:  Kera Mashek

Powered by Frankly