Effort to politicize district court judges
A bill introduced in the Iowa Senate, Senate File 2014, would change the membership of judicial nominating committees for district court judges. Judges decide cases in county courthouses.
As the law currently stands, the judicial nominating commission for each judicial district in the state is composed of five members appointed by the governor, five members elected by attorneys in each judicial district, and the most senior judge of each district. These commissioners interview attorneys applying to be district court judges. Then, the commission nominates two candidates whose names are sent to the governor. The governor then appoints one of these candidates to be a judge.
This process has worked well for over 50 years. It is designed to remove politics from the judicial selection process. It is hoped that the judges will therefore be fair and impartial. In some states, judicial candidates run for office and are required to be politicians. In some states, judges are appointed by the governor, subject to confirmation by the legislature, just like federal judges. As we have seen at the federal level, this kind of judicial selection causes politics to rear its ugly head.
However, the Republican majority in the Iowa Legislature is unhappy with the existing process. The 2014 Senate filing would give the governor 6 appointments to each committee and the attorneys would only get 5. And the most senior judge would no longer be a member of the committee. Therefore, governor appointees would constitute the majority of the commission. The result would be that the governor indirectly controls who is nominated for a judgeship and directly controls who is nominated among these partisan candidates.
The Sierra Club opposes the 2014 Senate case. We want judges who will judge our environmental cases fairly, without any trace of political partisanship.
Tell your senator to oppose SF2014.
To find your senate member, see www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/senate
To find your legislator, visit www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/find