Preserve integrity and impartiality of Iowa's courts


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If you've watched the news lately, pundits would have you believe that Republican and Democrats don't agree on much. However, there is an issue brewing in Iowa that Republicans, Democrats, and independents can agree on: We don't want money and politics to influence our courts.

Never in the history of our state has an Iowa Supreme Court justice been removed from office by voters. Yet this year there is a well-funded effort underway to oust three of the seven justices on the Supreme Court. If this effort is successful, we believe it will change the very nature of Iowa's judicial system.

That's why we are working together, as co-chairwomen of a new coalition of diverse organizations, community leaders, and individuals who have joined to protect Iowa's courts.

Justice, Not Politics is committed to protecting Iowa's courts and our system of merit selection and retention. The coalition was recently launched to educate Iowans on this issue and to counter those who are working to tear apart our fair and impartial court system.

This summer we became extremely concerned as we heard increased public rhetoric that injected politics into our courts. The announcement by former Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bob Vander Plaats and his creation of "Iowa for Freedom" cemented our concern and our resolve to take action.

Justice, Not Politics is a broad-based, nonpartisan coalition of organizations and Iowans across the political spectrum — progressive to conservative, Republicans, independents, and Democrats — committed to protecting the judicial system of selection and retention that has served Iowa well for almost 50 years.

We deliberately chose to build a broad-based coalition so we could speak Iowan to Iowan. Members include leaders in business, labor, faith communities, and more; all are Iowans who care about this state and the integrity of our courts.

A growing number of organizations, such as the League of Women Voters, the Community Foundation of Des Moines, the American Judicature Society, AFSCME Council 61, and the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa are participating in this coalition, as well as community leaders such as Barry Griswell, former Sens. Maggie Tinsman and Florence Buhr, and Bishop Julius Trimble.

The efforts by Vander Plaats demonstrate how a special-interest group with a defined political agenda can undermine the integrity and impartiality of our courts. It is clear "Iowa for Freedom" is financed by a group from Mississippi, the American Family Association, which does not have the best interests of Iowans at heart.

Justice should be the guiding light of the courts, not politics. Iowa courts have a long history of protecting the rights of every person and entity that stands before the bench, from the average worker to large corporations. In order to maintain that high standard, the retention of Iowa judges should be based on their ability to uphold the law fairly and consistently — not political retribution for the outcome of a single decision.

There is much work to be done to fight extremists who want to insert their special interests into the one branch of government that should be free from politics. We welcome the thousands of Iowans across the state who understand the importance of this effort.

The coalition will be tireless in safeguarding the right of every Iowan to have a fair day in court with an impartial judge who has not been unduly influenced by partisanship or money. Every Iowa business, every Iowa worker, and every Iowan deserves nothing less.

Sally Pederson and Joy Corning are former Iowa lieutenant governors and co-chairwomen of Justice, Not Politics.

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