The Ottumwa Courier

September 25, 2012

Judge-retention vote at a fevered pitch

‘No Wiggins’ campaign over same-sex marriage ruling rolls through town

Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA — Former presidential candidate Rick Santorum said he was back in Ottumwa to set the record straight about an upcoming judge-retention vote.

On Monday, he told a crowd of at least 50 people he was standing by Bob Vander Plaats, who spearheaded a campaign two years ago that successfully removed three justices from Iowa’s Supreme Court.

“A statement not just in Iowa, but [for] the country, against judicial tyranny,” Santorum said. “We wanted to lend our voice to this important issue.”

Santorum, now the chairman of Patriot Voices, was showing his support for the Iowans for Freedom “No Wiggins” Bus Tour, which is a project of the Family Leader group.

Justice David Wiggins was one of the judges who ruled on a landmark Iowa case. Speakers during the Ottumwa stop called Wiggins one of the “activist judges” who brought their personal and political beliefs into the courtroom.

Politics and personal agendas, said Santorum, have no place in an impartial court.

Legislation calling for marriage to be defined as being only between one man and one woman resulted in a lawsuit. That suit went to the Iowa Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously that the law, as written, violated the Iowa Constitution.

That, said Vander Plaats and his supporters, was a blow against traditional marriage as it has existed for all time. Worse, said he and Santorum, the people now have judges trying to rule them rather than a government that should exist, according to the founding fathers, for the governed.

Family Leader successfully campaigned to push three of the justices off the bench. Continued success with this fourth judge, perhaps even getting the ruling set aside, could show the entire nation “the people can still have power over unelected judges,” Santorum said.

The judiciary is to be a “check” upon the other two branches of government, he added. It is not there to rule over them, he said.

Citizens, speakers said, should vote “no” when they see Wiggins’ name on their ballot.

Tamara Scott, Iowans for Freedom co-chair, said this retention vote will be about more than marriage.

“This is a vote on liberty, about your voice, about the separation of powers,” she said. “And that retention vote is your only voice on this issue.”

Vander Plaats added that it’s the Legislature representing the voters that gets to make the laws — not the courts.

Also visiting Ottumwa Park on Monday were representatives of the Iowa Bar Association. About 10 people were there to listen.

Whereas the bus carrying Vander Plaats and Santorum encourages citizens to vote “No,” the truck behind the bar association attorneys encouraged citizens to vote “Yes” to retaining the more than 70 judges up for retention.

“The justices of the Iowa Supreme Court didn’t decide the issue of the day was gay marriage,” said attorney Christine Branstad, niece of Iowa’s governor.

A lawsuit came before the bench on appeal. The legislation in question did not fit with the Iowa Constitution. That’s why, said Branstad and fellow attorney Dan Moore, seven different justices issued a ruling saying just that.

Moore was introduced as a longtime Republican. In fact, during Vander Plaats’ run for governor, Moore was his campaign treasurer.

“While Bob Vander Plaats and out-of-state politicians threaten and intimidate judges on their tour of self-promotion, we are reaching out to Iowans directly to vote yes on retention. Our focus is on protecting our fair courts from partisan politics,” said Sally Pederson, former lieutenant governor and chairwoman of Justice Not Politics Action.

“The truth of the matter is the Iowa Supreme Court applied the Iowa Constitution to protect the freedoms of Iowans. They applied the ‘equal protection’ clause,” Moore said.

That’s the clause that says, in a sense, the Legislature should not give some people rights which aren’t given to all citizens. In this case, lawyers say, the “some people” are represented by the failed legislation wording of “between a man and a woman.”

Moore said if the Iowa Constitution said something completely different, then the ruling could have been completely different. The justices based their decision only on whether the law was allowed by the Constitution, not by what they felt about one specific issue.

“We’ve got to ask ourself a question,” Moore said. “What kind of court system do we want? A court that issues rulings based on public opinion polls, campaign contributions and political intimidation? Or a court system that issues impartial rulings based upon the rule of law?”