Iowa State Bar Says All Judges And Justices Up For Retention Should Remain

Sep 12, 2016

The Iowa State Bar Association is recommending that voters retain all 63 Iowa judges and the three state supreme court justices who are facing judicial retention elections this November. The ISBA is basing this recommendation on the 2016 Judicial Performance Review survey. 

A total of 1,495 attorneys rated the competence of the judges and justices using a five-point scale. Qualities respondents considered include knowledge of the law, clarity and quality of written opinions, promptness of decisions, demeanor, and fairness. 

Only lawyers who "have sufficient contact and experience" were eligible to submit evaluation of a judge of justice. However it was up to the participant to determine if they qualified.

Critics of judicial elections argue voters don’t have enough information to make educated choices at the ballot box. But Guy Cook, who chairs ISBA's Fair and Impartial Court Committee, says the survey gives Iowans the information they need to make an informed decision.

"You have people who really know the process and interact with these judges on a daily basis," says Cook. "If you were trying to decide whether a doctor is good, you might ask other doctors about that doctor. So people with the best information are providing this to the public." 

In 2010 retention election, three state Supreme Court justices were voted off the bench as a result of a controversial ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in Iowa. Lower court judges were also voted off the bench in 1974, 1978 and 1994.