Iowa voters remove 3 Supreme Court justices

Published 9:29 am Wednesday, November 3, 2010

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa voters for the first time in nearly 50 years removed Supreme Court justices in Tuesday’s election, siding with conservatives angered by a ruling that allowed gay marriage.

Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, David Baker and Michael Streit were on the court of seven justices who decided last year that an Iowa law restricting marriage to one man and one woman violated the state’s constitution.

They needed a simple majority to retain their seats, but more than 54 percent of voters had decided not to retain them with most of the vote counted. It was the first time voters removed Supreme Court justices since the current retention system was approved in 1962.

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Gay marriage opponents spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to convince voters to reject the justices.

A group of former governors, lawyers and judges countered that Iowa’s independent judiciary was at risk if a one-issue campaign succeeded in removing the justices.

The effort to remove the Supreme Court justices was led by former Republican candidate for governor Bob Vander Plaats.

“Iowa stood up with a resounding voice and said we’re not going to allow activist courts make our laws and amend our constitution,” he said.

While rural counties voted against retention, the justices prevailed in the state’s most populous counties, though only narrowly in some of those.

Five Iowa Court of Appeals judges also on the statewide ballot were all retained with more than 62 percent of the vote.

Although the justices can by law raise money and campaign to keep their jobs, the three opted against such a high-profile effort.

“Throughout our judicial service we endeavored to serve the people of Iowa by always adhering to the rule of law, making decisions fairly and impartially according to law, and faithfully upholding the constitution,” Ternus, Streit and Baker said in a joint statement.

Advocacy groups, including Fair Courts for Us, asked voters to retain the justices.