February/March President’s Message

What a bizarre time to be a lawyer in Iowa! Disgruntled and misinformed voters toss three talented Justices of the Iowa Supreme Court. Legislators threaten to impeach the remaining Justices. The Judicial Nominating Commission is sued in Federal Court in an effort to stop the Commission from promptly replacing the Justices.

For nearly 50 years our merit selection system has worked very smoothly. Judges were appointed based on merit. They were retained or dismissed based on merit. Major businesses touted Iowa as one of the few states with universally competent and independent judges.

Without a doubt, the 2010 retention election was a watershed event in the history of Iowa. How did we get to such a state of affairs? Unfortunately, we lawyers are to blame. We became complacent. We let Iowans lose sight of what a wonderful judicial branch of government they have. We allowed out-of-state special interest groups to misinform our friends and neighbors. We stopped talking to our kids’ civics classes. We stopped talking to our church groups and breakfast clubs. We even stopped running for public office. In the 1930’s nearly two thirds of the members of the Iowa legislature were lawyers. Today there are only a handful of lawyer legislators.

It’s time to wake up. Please take an hour a couple of times a year to talk to students about the selection and retention of Iowa judges. Make yourself available to your church group and you breakfast club to explain Iowa’s system for selecting and retaining judges. Write letters to the editor. AND FINALLY, run for public office.