The debate over whether or not to file articles of impeachment for the four remaining Iowa Supreme Court Justices received new life yesterday when Governor-Elect Terry Branstad told the Cedar Rapids Gazette, “I don’t think that impeachment is the appropriate remedy.”
Currently, only four Republican legislators support the proposed impeachment. State Representative Dwayne Alons is the only current legislator who has come out publically to support the effort. The other three supporters of impeachment were each elected for the first time in November. They are Representatives-Elect Tom Shaw, Kim Pearson, and Glen Massie.
Those arguing to impeach the justices do so because they believe that they are defending Iowa’s constitution. Representative-Elect Shaw was on Steve Deace’s radio program last night to respond to Branstad’s remarks. He based his support of impeachment on Article III of the state constitution, which reads as follows:
SECTION 1. The powers of the government of Iowa shall be divided into three separate departments–the legislative, the executive, and the judicial: and no person charged with the exercise of powers properly belonging to one of these departments shall exercise any function appertaining to either of the others, except in cases hereinafter expressly directed or permitted.
For Shaw, the issue is rather simple. “If they overreach we must impeach,” Shaw told Deace. While Shaw and others think it is a cut and dry case, charging a public official with impeachment is serious business. Shaw, Pearson, and Massie have been quick to talk to the media and have been regulars on Deace’s show, but they have yet to talk specifics. Instead, they tend to speak in generalities.
In Varnum vs. Brien, the court cited Article III of the constitution extensively. Its decision also cited Article I, the Bill of Rights, which grants citizens equal protection under the law, Article XII, which states that any law the violates the constitution shall be void, and Marbury vs. Madison, which established the precedent for judicial review.
If Shaw and the others are going to prove that impeachment of the four remaining justices is warranted, then they must repudiate the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case. The impeachment supporters have yet to show that the court did not have the constitutional authority to decide on the constitutionality of DOMA and void it if found to be unconstitutional. While many of us may disagree with the rationale the court used to come to its conclusion, and the conclusion itself for that matter, that doesn’t rise to the level of a “misdemeanor” or “malfeasance in office,” which is what is required for impeachment.
It is also clear that the court didn’t attempt to usurp the executive powers of the state. Shaw and others would be wise to remember that it was Attorney General Tom Miller who directed County Recorders to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, not the court.
The decision also cites the Iowa Civil Rights Act, which recognized the need to address sexual-orientation-based discrimination. It is that law, which the legislature and executive branch enacted, that provided the foundation for the court’s decision.
It is already obvious that some of the most conservative voices in the state are going to use Branstad’s remarks to help gain public support for the impeachment of the four remaining justices. The problem with that strategy is that, while it will create dust storm for Branstad to deal with, it will accomplish nothing.
It’s also telling that Steve Deace, who talked about Branstad’s comments in each of the three hours of his show yesterday, takes issue with Branstad’s position, but is fine with Bob Vander Plaats avoiding weighing in on the controversial issue. Vander Plaats is advocating for the justices to resign, which everyone knows is never going to happen.
Maybe the most frustrating part of this whole fiasco is that, had these same people channeled their energy in passing a marriage amendment years ago, this wouldn’t even be an issue.
Now, instead of focusing on passing an amendment, changing our judicial nominating system, reinstating DOMA, or passing a residency requirement, Republicans find themselves arguing amongst themselves because a handful of vocal legislators seem laser-focused in the unattainable and unsupported goal of impeachment.
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