In Iowa, voters “removed three justices who participated in a ruling last year that made the state the first in the Midwest” to recognize same-sex marriages. While the governor appoints the justices in the Hawkeye State, they “have to stand for periodic retention votes, a system known as merit selection.”
It seems voters approve judges a matter of course, but this time, a coalition of outside advocacy groups pushed for their removal because of their vote on same-sex marriage:
The outcome of the election was heralded both as a statewide repudiation of same-sex marriage and as a national demonstration that conservatives who have long complained about “legislators in robes” are able to effectively target and remove judges who issue unpopular decisions.
Leaders of the recall campaign said the results should be a warning to judges elsewhere.
“I think it will send a message across the country that the power resides with the people,” said Bob Vander Plaats, an unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor who led the campaign. “It’s we the people, not we the courts.”
“The risk of leapfrogging — or ignoring — public opinion on controversial issues was brought into sharp relief Tuesday,” New York Times writer A.G. Sulzberger observes, “when voters chose to remove all three justices who were on the ballot seeking new terms.”
“They are,” my former fellow Virginia Law Federalist Todd Zywicki writes, “the first Justices who failed to be retained since 1962, when the current system was implemented.” Todd offers a good discussion of voters’ use of the power of retention, so just read the whole thing. We could have avoided all this mess if judges deferred such matters to legislators who must answer to the people in biennial elections.
Todd’s post via Glenn Reynolds who offers, “I’m in favor of gay marriage, but I think it’s better that it happen legislatively. On the other hand, had these justices been retained it would have been democratic sanction for the decision. That’s a virtue of elected supreme courts.“
Of the legislatures which voted to recognize gay marriage, four chambers changed hands in Tuesday’s balloting, with Republicans winning back both the House and the Senate in New Hampshire and Maine, the former by whopping supermajorities, the latter more narrowly. The chambers in Vermont did change hands.
Would be interesting to see if the gay marriage vote had any bearing on the Republican gains. My sense is that voters were more concerned about pocketbook issues; New Hampshire is notorious for tossing out big-government types.