By Peter J. Smith
DES MOINES, Iowa, September 9, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on Wednesday waded into a unique state electoral battle, where conservatives are seeking to recall from the bench three state Supreme Court justices that legalized same-sex “marriage” in 2009.
Speaking at a panel organized by the Iowa State Bar Association in the Hotel Fort Des Moines, O'Connor asserted that “the judges should not be subject to retaliation" from voters for the decisions they render.
According to the AP, Chief Justice Marsha Ternus introduced O’Connor at the event, warning that "fair and independent courts" were at stake. However, Ternus is one of those, along with Justices David Baker and Michael Streit, whose terms on the high court will come to an end unless Iowans vote “yes” to retain them on November 2.
Under a 1962 amendment to Iowa’s constitution, eight years after being appointed judges must go on the ballot for a popular vote to retain their position or be sent packing.
Usually judges have little difficulty retaining their posts, but this year is different owing to the high court – by unanimous consent – striking down the state Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), on the basis that it violated the state’s guarantees of equal protection.
Conservatives accused the high court of overstepping its bounds and engaging in judicial activism by appealing to an “evolving standard” of interpreting the state constitution.
"The April 3, 2009, opinion made it extremely clear that this court became activist in nature. We say we don't want the courts politicized but that's exactly what they did," said conservative activist and former GOP candidate for governor Bob Vander Plaats in an interview broadcast Sunday on KCCI-TV.
The former GOP candidate, who pledged to use an executive order to nullify the court’s ruling until the legislature made a new law, has said the retention vote provides an antidote to the politicization of the court.
“We believe it has been politicized and that is why we have the retention vote,” Vander Plaats said. “The retention vote is an accountability mechanism. When court gets out of balance, the people then have a say and can rein it in. The process becomes political in our opponents’ eyes when the people rise up to exercise their freedom of speech as protected by the Constitution and the courts.”
Vander Plaats has organized a campaign to oust Ternus, Baker, and Streit called “Iowa For Freedom,” and has been barnstorming the state explaining to Iowans why the court’s desire to legislate from the bench needs to be checked by the people.
“If judges can redefine marriage, they can redefine who should pay taxes and how much, who can own and carry a gun and whose private property rights get protected - or do not,” Vander Plaats argued in an op-ed.
Vander Plaats argued that the Iowa Supreme Court violated the law in three large ways: first invalidating Iowan principles by striking down its own DOMA, second usurping the role of legislature by enacting from the bench a new law legalizing same-sex “marriage,” and thirdly, executing the law demanding its enforcement, which is a function of the executive branch, by ordering all 99 counties to implement the decision.
"We need to vote them off the bench to send a message across Iowa that we, the people, still have the power," said Vander Plaats. "Not only will it send a message here in Iowa, but it will send a message in California, in Arizona and across the country that the courts have really taken on too much power."