Iowa Courts Continue Role As Vanguard for Equal Rights, Fairness During Modern Era

December 28, 2020

After leading the nation with several blockbuster rulings on human and civil rights during its first 100 years in business, Iowa courts in the modern era would certainly have a tough act to follow. But the die was cast and – good news for us – our Iowa courts continue their role as vanguard for equal rights and fairness for ALL Iowans, not just those with money and influence.

More recent milestones include:

1962: Judges Selected On Merit
In the old days, district and appellate court judges in Iowa had to campaign for a seat on the bench. This meant money and politics could trump qualifications and experience. “Enough!” said the people of Iowa, passing a constitutional amendment in 1962 that established merit-based nominations and retention elections. Based on the judicial campaign horror stories we witness elsewhere in the country, Iowans got it right.

1986: First Woman Justice in High Court’s 150-Year History
There are many achievements next to Linda K. Neuman’s name – prominent lawyer, county magistrate, district court judge, law school instructor, leader of multiple professional and civic organizations – all crowned by her appointment to the Iowa Supreme Court in 1986. The late Chief Justice Mark Cady would say of Neuman: “While no career is defined by a single contribution, a single achievement can be, at times, so transformative that history can never be told again without including the achievement. Justice Neuman made such a contribution by becoming the first woman to serve on the Iowa Supreme Court.”

2009: Marriage Equality for All Iowans
In Varnum v. Brien, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, six years before the U.S. Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land. “We knew that our decision would be unpopular with many people, and we even knew in the back of our minds that we could lose our jobs because of our votes in that case,” said former Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, “but we took an oath of office in which we promised to uphold the Iowa Constitution without fear, favor or hope of reward, and that is what we did.”

We believe this storied history of upholding the rights of average citizens continues to this day in Iowa’s courts because our judges are free to rule fairly and consistently based upon the law and constitution, not politics. And it will stay that way unless we give in to the extreme special interests and politicians who would turn back the clock to a time when they called the shots in our courts instead of you!

The Justice Not Politics Team

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