The Ottumwa Courier

September 22, 2012

A Q&A with members of the judiciary

Guest editorial

Bev Versteegh

OTTUMWA — The League of Women Voters is known as a nonpartisan political organization, dedicated to encouraging informed and active participation in government, increasing understanding of major public policy questions, and influencing public policy through education and advocacy.  

One of the issues we are embracing is judicial retention.  We believe in “Justice not Politics” and while judges will be on the ballot this November, the retention election is intended to focus on their professional competency rather than individual rulings or politics.  

There are 74 judges on the retention ballot in November throughout Iowa. The 10 judges that will be on our ballots in District 8A will include District Court Justices Lucy Gamon, Myron Gookin and Crystal Cronk; Appeal Court Judges Michael Mullins, Mary Tabor and Anuradha Vaitheswaran; and Iowa Supreme Court Justices Edward Mansfield, Thomas Waterman, David Wiggins and Bruce B. Zager.  

In the weeks prior to the general election, the Ottumwa chapter of the LWV will feature the questions and answers in an effort to educate voters, regarding the judges on the November ballot.

The League would like to thank Judge Annette Scienszinski, chair of the 8th District Public Outreach Committe, for her assistance and encouragement in this project.

Bev VerSteegh is the president of the League of Women Voters of Ottumwa.

LWV QUESTION:  Each justice or judge takes an oath pursuant to Iowa Code Section 63.6 to “support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Iowa, and [will] without fear, favor, affection, or hope of reward, [to the best of his/her] knowledge and ability, administer justice according to the law, equally to the rich and the poor.” What does this oath mean to you, and how does your judicial service fulfill this oath?

• Judge Myron Gookin, District Court: “This oath confirms our absolute commitment to be fair and impartial, and make our decisions solely based on the law and the facts presented. We are bound by the law, no matter who the parties are, and no matter what our personal opinions or beliefs may be concerning the issues in dispute. This is what I believe all judges strive to do each day. It is what we must do in order to earn the respect and confidence of the public in our judicial decisions and to foster respect for the rule of law.”

• Judge Mary Tabor, Appeals Court: “Two years ago I had the great honor of being sworn in as a judge on the Iowa Court of Appeals. Taking the oath of office was the most moving and important part of the ceremony.  By pledging to support our state and federal Constitutions, I took on the awesome task of protecting all Iowans from potential government abuses of power. Every day when I am deciding appeals, I work to uphold the rights enshrined in our Constitutions.  Fulfilling my oath means administering justice based on the facts of each case and the existing law, independent of outside influences.”

• Judge Michael Mullins, Appeals Court: “The oath is my promise to the citizens of Iowa that I will follow the rule of law upon which our government and society are based.  As a judge, I consider the facts presented to me and I apply the law to those facts without regard to the status or circumstance of the parties. We are, and must be, a court system which decides disputes based on law — the rule of law — and not according to how much money or power a person has.”