By Bob Vander Plaats
There have been several points raised in a number of newspaper editorials in support of the retention of Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins that are highly misleading.
The Register recently ran an editorial citing Clark v. Board of Directors of the Muscatine Schools, an 1868 case in which the Iowa Supreme Court ordered the desegregation of Muscatine schools. This case is often cited by those defending the Iowa Justices who rendered the Varnum decision as an example of the Court stepping in to right an injustice. What they purposefully leave out is the fact that there was already a statute ordering desegregation on the books, and the Iowa Court was only upholding that 1858 law passed by the Iowa legislature, not making up new laws from the bench. The two circumstances couldn’t be more different.
Another recent op-ed written by the three justices who were ousted in 2010 tries to claim that the actions of the justices, including David Wiggins, in the Varnum decision were justified because they were simply applying the rule of law to the facts of the case. They imply the correct outcome was obvious and that permitting gay marriage was the only possible decision they could reach.
This claim ignores the fact that several courts in other jurisdictions with identical or nearly identical rules defining marriage as between one man and one woman have examined this question and come to the exact opposite conclusion than that reached by the Iowa Supreme Court.
One such case comes from the federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which answered the question of whether or not Nebraska’s prohibition of gay marriage violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. The 8th Circuit upheld Nebraska’s definition of traditional marriage in 2006.
The equal protection provisions of the Iowa and United States Constitutions are substantially similar. The Iowa Supreme Court even mentioned in the Varnum decision itself that the Iowa equal protection clause is substantively the same as the federal equal protection clause, stating, “Like the Federal Equal Protection Clause found in the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Iowa’s constitutional promise of equal protection ‘is essentially a direction that all persons similarly situated should be treated alike.’”
Yet, the Iowa Supreme Court, including Justice Wiggins, saw fit to view these provisions so differently as to justify a completely different conclusion than that of the 8th Circuit about what equal protection means in regards to marriage laws. Perhaps the justices of the Iowa court chose not to address the question of why they could come to a completely different conclusion than the 8th Circuit because doing so is pretty difficult to justify.
The bottom line is that David Wiggins is out of touch with the values of Iowans, not just on gay marriage, but in other areas as well.
Wiggins was part of the decision that tossed out decades of criminal law precedent on what is known as the felony murder rule so that someone like Rodney Heemstra could get a new trial.
Wiggins also authored the opinion that upended decades of legal precedent holding that an attorney’s violation of a criminal statute is also a breach of that attorney’s ethical obligations as a licensed lawyer in our state. Wiggins apparently believes it is not unethical for an attorney to commit a federal felony.
Wiggins even politicized the very judicial nominating process he claims to hold so dear by asking nearly every person interviewing for a job as a Supreme Court Justice what they thought about the outcome of the retention elections in 2010, a question completely irrelevant to applicants’ qualifications to become a Supreme Court Justice.
Wiggins is out of touch, not respected by the legal community, and not fit to continue as a Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court.
Vote no on Wiggins.
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