Lawsuit: Iowa Vote to Oust Pro-Equality Judges Was Illegal

Could the vote in November to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices be thrown out on a technicality?

The Des Moines Register: Iowasupremecourt

Three Des Moines-area attorneys believe the retention vote that ousted three Iowa Supreme Court justices was illegal because the Iowa Constitution mandates the votes for judges be "on a separate ballot."

They have filed suit to keep the three justices, who participated in last year's unanimous ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, from being tossed off the bench.

The ballot used Nov. 2 included the names of the justices standing for retention on the back of a single sheet, "combined with other elections, nonpartisan offices, Constitutional questions and public measures," the lawsuit says.

Thomas W. George, John P. Roehrick and Carlton Salmons are asking for a temporary judicial order that would bar the justices from leaving the Supreme Court when their terms end Dec. 31.

The attorney general's office will represent Secretary of State Michael Mauro, who is named in the lawsuit.

"The lawsuit asks that the three justices serve until the next general election or until a special election using lawful separate ballots."


  1. K in VA says

    I dunno … this sounds like a pretty iffy suit to me. If the state constitution said “separate piece of paper,” maybe they’d have a case. But it’s entirely plausible to argue that the other side of a sheet of paper is a “separate ballot.”

  2. Lisa G says

    A nice try, but I would agree, very “iffy” at best. Separate ballot could also mean each name needs to be individually voted on, not just as a group to be recalled. Dont hold your breath for this one to go far.

  3. Sam says

    God bless all seven of these justices! They did their job dictated by the Iowa constitution to ensure equal protection under the law by upholding the gay marriage decision. I hope this lawsuit is successful.

  4. Joe says

    This suit seems silly. But honestly, if bigots want to throw people off the bench for upholding their viewpoints, then they ought to make sure everything they’re doing is on the up and up and by the book.

  5. Kendall says

    Am I the only one who thinks that this is just three lawyers shamelessly sucking up to the ex-justices hoping that they’ll join their firm(s) and bring in $$$?

  6. John DeMann says

    Uh. Should they not have pointed this out BEFORE the election. They had sample ballots available. Nice to see once the people spoke, the quick move to overturn the voters.

  7. ludwig says

    This is as it should be and the religious zealot nuts who hijacked the Law with their very egregious fallacious advocacy by having them fired by putting this on the ballot in violation of Constitutional Law should be called before the courts and prosecuted for violating the separtation of church and state and the right to be free of religious influences in Government and in people’s personal lives. The Judicary are suppose to be separate from the political processes since they must at times make unpopular rulings which apparently they did their correct duty in ruling (as has happened in other states) that denying same sex couples the right to marry is unconstitutional.

  8. Zlick says

    I haven’t read the Iowa constitution, but in legal terms “separate ballot” means an entirely separate card (if, for instance, punch cards were being used). It could not be “on the back.”

    I don’t see anything wrong with this suit. Al Capone was jailed for income tax evasion, not murder or racketeering.

  9. Randy says

    I think the term “separate ballot” is pretty clear. If the ballots are separate, you can put them into separate ballot boxes. There’s no way to put the reverse side of a sheet of paper into one box, and the front side into another.

    I’m surprised this is the first we’re hearing about it though.

  10. sam says

    I think that the people of Iowa were pretty clear how they felt about their Judges. Perhaps they could do a special election and include the other Judges and then we can remove them ALL. Iowians can be sure to trun out for the second vote too.

  11. Dev says

    If they do have another vote, the people of Iowa will just vote to remove the judges again. Bigotry doesn’t just miraculously disappear in a matter of weeks, especially if we’re talking about the majority of the state’s population.

  12. KD says

    I live in Iowa and voted in this election. All of the partisan statewide elections were on the front of the ballot. A couple non-partisan local elections, a question of an environment-related constitutional amendment, a question to allow a constitutional convention, a question whether to allow those under 21 into local bars, and the judicial retention vote were on the the back of the ballot. So by no means do I think this could be at all construed as a “separate ballot”. Yes, it’s a technicality. But shit is won in court on technicalities all the time. Hell, if a gay man in Arkansas has a self-made will leaving his property to his partner that is signed by him and everyone agrees it was signed by him but it wasn’t notarized then the family can take the property away. That’s a technicality too. So I have no problem using technicalities against the mob rule.

  13. wimsy says

    I wonder if anyone has alerted the IRS that clergy instructed their parishioners how to vote from the pulpit, thereby violating the terms of their charitable status. Bigots might learn a lesson if a few dozen churches lose their tax exemption over this.

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