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PAY ATTENTION: Ousted Judge Wants Engagement

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Former Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus acknowledges getting people to pay more attention to the legal system isn't easy.

She knows she is like many others in a high-tech world with so much information coming from every direction.

Ternus said, "I feel like I'm bombarded with information. And I don't know which issues to pay attention to and dig into so I can have a meaningful assessment of how I feel about it, what I think and how I might voice my positions on issues."

Opponents of same-sex marriage helped organization against Ternus and two others in 2010 following the court's unanimous ruling the year before that legalized same-sex marriage in the state.

Voters ousted the three justices, the first time Iowans had done that in the state's history. But Ternus doesn't want Iowans to feel sorry for her. She said, "I don't feel like a victim. So I don't really have victim-like comments."

Ternus took part in a forum Tuesday in Des Moines sponsored by the Iowa Fair Courts Coalition. The coalition is made up of: One Iowa, Americans for Democratic Action, Working Families Win, Iowa Citizen Action Network, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), QC Pride, Inc. and Metro Community Church of the Quad Cities.

Ternus wants Iowans to stay engaged in the legal system, so they can limit the impact politics has on it. She said, "One that will adhere to the law and not be swayed by the most powerful voice of the most vociferous voice. So that's really the important thing for Iowans to focus on at this point."

Another panel member, Sandhya Bathija, campaign manager for Legal Progress, pushed for supporters to fight politics with politics. She said, "As progressives, we want to mirror what they have done because we have to fight back."

Bathija also singled out Republican Senator Chuck Grassley. Bathija said Grassley opposes President Barack Obama's court nominees because of politics. Grassley has also pushed for a plan that would reduce the number of judges on the D.C. Circuit Court. He argues the change makes both common and financial sense.

In a statement Grassley said, “There are legitimate and important policy questions about the resources of the federal judiciary that ought to outweigh the politics that have been injected into this debate.

"I’ve been working for 20 years, under both Republican and Democrat Presidents, to make the federal court system a more efficient entity that uses taxpayer resources wisely.

"It’s hard to deny that the caseload for the D.C. Circuit is lower now than it has been in years.   It’s a fact that neither side can spin.  Allocating resources where they are needed most makes common sense.  My bill doesn’t deny the President the opportunity to make these appointments. Rather, he would simply make them to the courts where they are needed.”

Gay, or straight, republican or democrat, they want you to pay attention to this issue even though you may not be thinking about the courts nearly as much as they are.