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Iowa Supreme Court Justices Lawsuit

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Separate Semantics: Remember when former prez Bill Clinton taught us the definition of the word “is”? He claimed at the time, “It means that there is not a sexual relationship, an improper sexual relationship or any other kind of improper relationship.”

We later learned technically that was true since the sex stuff with Monica Lewinsky wasn’t still going on at the time of his statement, hence, his use of “is” (I’m not sure when I last used the word “hence” in a post).

I was reminded of that covering the court hearing at the Polk County Courthouse today. It had nothing to do with sex but it has been a juicy affair this past year. Three attorneys were suing to try to, at least temporarily, keep those 3 ousted Iowa Supreme Court justices on the bench past the time their terms are set to expire December 31st. It turns out the justices decided they didn’t want the attorneys fighting on their behalf. Well, at least they decided from a professional standpoint. We don’t necessarily know if they believe that on a personal standpoint. So, upon learning that, the attorneys dropped that part of their lawsuit. They say they still plan on moving ahead with the other part. That’s the claim voters illegally kicked out the justices. The fight comes down to the meaning of the word, “separate”. There seem to be two issues at odds here: the Iowa Constitution and a law passed by the legislature.

The attorneys cite this in the constitution:

Iowa Constitution, Article V, Section 17

“They shall at such judicial election stand for retention in office on a separate ballot…”

However, they also point out lawmakers later passed this:

Iowa Code 46.21

“The names of all judges and clerks to be voted on shall be placed upon one ballot…”

So, does separate mean Iowans should vote on politicians on one part of the ballot and the judicial retention on a different part? Or does it mean Iowans should have to use 2 different ballots? This whole justice fight ain’t over, friends. Although, one attorney, John Roehrick, at the hearing did tell me this means the 2010 fight is likely over. He’s focusing now on getting resolution before the 2012 retention vote.

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