Conservatives Rail Against ‘Activist’ Judges

Des Moines, Iowa — Conservatives who oppose Iowa Supreme Court rulings legalizing same-sex marriage and overturning abortion restrictions are urging the Republican-led legislature to strike back.

“Iowa has one of the most activist Supreme Courts in the country,” Chuck Hurley, legal counsel for The Family Leader, said last week. He says, “You name it and the Iowa Supreme Court is to the left on almost every issue currently.”

Public hearings were held at the state capitol last week on a plan to reshuffle the commission that nominates judges as well as a bid to amend the Iowa Constitution to specify that it does not “secure” the right to an abortion. Isabelle Barrett of Des Moines accused Republicans of pursuing a “crazy ideology.”

She says that it is about wanting to control bodies and about wanting to make people’s choices for them.

Keenan Crow of One Iowa, representing Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Questioning Iowans, said Iowa’s courts are giving everyone a fair shot at justice.

Crow says, “The response to that should not be to politicize the court in order to get decisions that we want.”

Representative Sandy Salmon, a Republican from Janesville, said it’s time to give Iowans a “larger voice” in who gets to be a judge.

During a subcommittee hearing last week, she said “Out in rural Iowa, everybody sees that politics is part of the judiciary.”

Iowa lawyers currently vote on which lawyers should serve on the Judicial Nominating Commission alongside people selected by the governor.

Bill Gustoff, a Des Moines attorney who unsuccessfully sought a spot on the commission in 2011, said trial lawyers are choosing the judges they’ll face in court.

A bill that instead would have the top four legislative leaders appoint half of the members of the Judicial Nominating Commission cleared House and Senate subcommittees last week.

The other abortion-related proposal — a constitutional amendment to block future court rulings upholding abortion rights — advanced out of a Senate subcommittee. Kimberly Laube of Lutheran Family Service said the Iowa Supreme Court has overstepped its authority. She says that the proposed amendment became necessary when a handful of unelected members of Iowa’s Supreme Court chose, in essence, to create law rather than interpret it.

A district court judge recently ruled Iowa’s six-week abortion ban was unconstitutional. Last year the Iowa Supreme Court nullified the state’s 72-hour waiting period for abortions.

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