Iowa lawmakers seek to impeach Supreme Court justices; effort appears doomed


Five Iowa Republican lawmakers filed resolutions in the state House on Thursday seeking to impeach the remaining four Iowa Supreme Court justices who issued an April 2009 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, but their efforts were squashed on Friday by House Speaker Kraig Paulsen.

The four House resolutions target Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady, and Justices Brent Appel, Daryl Hecht and David Wiggins for “malfeasance in office.”

“While I agree with much of the reasoning behind the impeachment resolutions, I disagree with this remedy,” Paulsen (R-Hiawatha), said in a statement. “I do not expect it to be debated on the floor of the House, and if it is, I will vote no.”

Paulsen also said there will not be debate over the resolutions as they were sent to the House Judiciary Committee, reports the Des Moines Register. The committee has no scheduled sessions during the remainder of the legislative session.

Rep. Rich Anderson R-Clarinda, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he didn’t think the justices’ conduct met the standard spelled out in the Constitution for impeachment. The standard takes aim at “misdemeanor or malfeasance in office,” Anderson said.

“Rendering an opinion or resolving a dispute, which is what judges and justices are charged with doing, that is not misconduct or wrongful or unlawful,” Anderson explained. “As much as the sponsors of the resolution disagree with the opinion, I don’t think the legal standard is met.”

The four GOP lawmakers offering the resolutions were Reps. Tom Shaw of Laurens, Dwayne Alons of Hull, Betty De Boef of What Cheer, Glen Massie of Des Moines and Kim Pearson of Pleasant Hill.

The four backers contended that the court, participating in a unanimous 2009 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, overstepped its authority.

In November 2010, voters ousted three other state Supreme Court justices who joined in the unanimous 2009 ruling. Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices David Baker and Michael Streit lost their retention vote after various group’s launched campaigns against them for ruling that Iowa’s law banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. Their terms officially expire on Dec. 31.

Opposition to retention was led by Bob Vander Plaats, who formed Iowa for Freedom following an unsuccessful GOP gubernatorial primary bid. The ouster movement was well financed by out-of-state anti-gay interest groups.

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