So there's a new lawsuit being pursued in Iowa, apparently by the James Madison Center (based in Terre Haute, Indiana). I had not personally heard about the JMC before, but from a look at their website, they are a legal organization focused on cases where people wish to press their religious beliefs into politics. They are FOR Prop 8, they have numerous cases in which they are representing (or supporting) the National Organization for Marriage, and so forth.
The complaint in Carlson v. Cady is that there are too many lawyers involved in the selection of Iowa's judges. As I understand it, Iowa's merit-based selection system uses a committee made up of 50% lay people and 50% attorneys. Apparently those pursuing this lawsuit feel that Iowa's voters (who are generally NOT experts on Iowa law, the state's constitution, etc.) should be completely in charge of selecting who gets to be a justice.
Which basically takes us back to buying the election of justices all over again, if it happens, no?
JAMES MADISON CENTER FOR FREE SPEECH
1 South 6th Street
Terre Haute, IN 47807-3510
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Contact: James Bopp, Jr.
Iowa Voters Challenge Process for Filling Supreme Court Spots
Four Iowa voters filed suit yesterday in federal court to stop the dominating influence of attorneys over the system for selecting state judges in Iowa, arguing that this influence denies ordinary Iowa voters an equal voice in selecting justices for the Iowa Supreme Court.
Three Iowa Supreme Court justices lost their retention elections this November. Under Iowa law, nominations for their replacements are made by the fifteen member State Judicial Nominating Commission. Only candidates nominated by the Commission may be appointed by the Governor. Since all nominees allowed to move forward by the Commission may be opposed to the Governor, the Commission, and not the people, has complete control over who becomes a judge in Iowa. Seven of Commission members are selected in elections in which only attorneys can vote. The current system thus guarantees lawyers a far greater say than ordinary citizens in Iowa in selecting judges who have great power and control over the lives of regular citizens.
The suit asks the court to stop the elected members of the Commission from participating in the nomination process and to stop any future election restricted to attorneys. The Commission can go forward and make its nominations without attorney member participation. According to attorney James Bopp, Jr., lead counsel for the plaintiffs, the Iowa system “gives attorneys a stranglehold on the judiciary. Lawyers in Iowa have enormous influence over who the state judges are, while the ordinary voter is denied the right to an equal voice.”
The case is Carlson, et al. v. Cady, et al. The complaint and memorandum supporting the motion for a temporary restraining order are available in PDF format online at the James Madison Center’s website, www.jamesmadisoncenter.org.
James Bopp, Jr. has a national federal and state election law practice. He is General Counsel for the James Madison Center for Free Speech and former Co-Chairman of the Election Law Subcommittee of the Federalist Society.