Judicial Independence or Judicial Imperialism
October 16, 2012
The three former Iowa Supreme Court justices ousted by voters in 2010 have taken to the oped pages in an attempt to save their one-time colleague, Justice David Wiggins, from a similar fate this November.
The controversy, of course, centers on the ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court to overturn the legislature’s traditional marriage law and require the state to recognize gay marriages. The three former Supremes want Iowans to believe that opposition to this ruling is not a legitimate basis to dump Justice Wiggins. In legal terms, this is what is known as a crock.
As of last summer, 31 states had passed popular referendums and/or constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. Across the U.S., legalization of gay marriage has come only through judicial fiat, such as in Iowa. Opponents of gay marriage see these judicial intrusions as an abuse of power, with judges exceeding their authority by not only legislating from the bench but by overturning the centuries-old traditional concept of marriage. Judges who have upheld gay marriage, like the Iowa justices, believe these decisions are grounded in the state constitution.
In this dispute, someone has to decide who is right – and in Iowa that someone in the people. Browbeating voters by suggesting they have no right to remove judges who have abused their power is not about protecting judicial independence, it’s about imposing judicial imperialism.