O’Connor’s rules

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was in Des Moines this morning for a panel discussion about Iowa’s system of appointing judges and then holding judicial retention elections.  O’Connor forbad recording of the event, so you won’t hear it here.  (That link takes you to the Radio Iowa story, which features an mp3 of the panel discussion AFTER O’Connor left.)

So, Iowans won’t be able to hear what O’Connor said today.  Instead, reporters like Grand Schulte of The Des Moines Register will have to tell you what she said.

According to the executive director of the Iowa State Bar Association, the group had been trying for four years to get O’Connor to come to Des Moines to talk about about judicial appointments/retention elections, etc., but today’s date was the first time she could work a stop in Des Moines, Iowa, into her schedule. 

The group formed this summer to campaign against retention of the three Iowa Supreme Court justices who on this November’s ballot issued a news release in response to O’Connor’s visit.  Read it below.


DES MOINES – Iowa For Freedom State Chairman Bob Vander Plaats thanked former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Wednesday for supporting Iowa For Freedom’s efforts. Since retiring from the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice O’Connor has spoken about the need to take politics out of the judicial process.

“We believe it has been politicized and that is why we have the retention vote,” Vander Plaats said. “The retention vote is an accountability mechanism. When court gets out of balance, the people then have a say and can rein it in. The process becomes political in our opponents’ eyes when the people rise up to exercise their freedom of speech as protected by the Constitution and the courts.”

Justice O’Connor has stressed in the past the nominating process for judges should be based on merit and not on the election process. Iowa For Freedom Campaign Manager Chuck Laudner and Iowa for Freedom members have been traveling the state speaking on the retention vote of Iowa’s three Supreme Court justices on Nov. 2 ballot.

“I absolutely agree with Justice O’Connor, politics should not enter into the process,” Laudner said. “She said the retention vote is part of the judicial system, and I agree that is the people’s right to vote no on such an important matter.”

Since August, Iowa For Freedom members have been educating Iowans about the judge retention process and asking them to vote no on retention based on the merits of the justices on ballot.

“It is the citizens’ right to vote their conscience,” Laudner said. “Election Day is their turn to be the judge.”

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.