Resolutions to impeach four Iowa Supreme Court justices were filed Thursday, and the resolutions quickly appeared doomed.
Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Republican, said today he did not support the effort by fellow Republican House members, according to a Des Moines Register article. The resolution backers contended that the court, participating in a unanimous 2009 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, overstepped its authority.
Three other justices who participated in the ruling were dumped by voters in elections last fall and have been replaced by gubernatorial appointment.
“While I agree with much of the reasoning behind the impeachment resolutions, I disagree with this remedy,” Paulsen said. “I do not expect it to be debated on the floor of the House, and if it is, I will vote no.”
“House Republicans remain focused on reducing government spending and lowering taxes for Iowa families and small businesses,” he added.
Paulsen also said there will not be debate over the resolutions as they were sent to the House Judiciary Committee, and it has no scheduled sessions during the remainder of the legislative session.
Republican Rep. Rich Anderson, chairman of that panel, had said earlier the impeachment process likely would stall in the committee, according to a separate Des Moines Register report. Anderson 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 resolutions were derided by Justice Not Politics, a group that supports Iowa’s merit-based system for choosing judges, as “a sad attempt to misuse the impeachment process for political gain.”
One of the impeachment advocates, Republican Rep. Tom Shaw, said he wasn’t discouraged by reports of little interest among House Republicans in moving forward to impeach the four justices who did not appear on the ballot last fall.
“We swear an oath to defend the state Constitution, and part of that is making sure the other two departments of government don’t overstep their bounds,” Shaw said. “I and some others firmly believe that the justices tried to take away the Legislature’s authority by trying to make law.”
The vote in Iowa’s retention election was historic and attracted national attention. National conservative groups helped fund the ouster campaign. Along the way, Iowa’s merit system has come under scrutiny (see Gavel Grab for background).