Profile in Courage-Iowa’s Supreme Court

Settlement Reached in Heemstra-Lyon Case
April 27, 2012
Workers Compensation- Indemnity Payment Determination-Burton
May 8, 2012
Show all

Profile in Courage-Iowa’s Supreme Court

As a fellow Iowa lawyer I have always applauded and supported the Iowa Judiciary. I have been involved in lawsuits throughout the United States and I can tell you that Iowa Judges are the best in the country. Any judicial system is designed to be truly independent, devoid of any political agenda, and to enforce the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the Iowa fairly and impartially without any regard to the social status, economic status or racial status of any litigant. In my experience no Court has performed that function better than the Iowa Supreme Court.

Whether a particular person agrees or disagrees with the decision the Iowa Supreme Court approximately 2 years ago, in an unanimous decision, rendered a controversial decision to protect the constitutional rights of a minority and ruled unconstitutional a ban on same-sex marriage. The decision created a firestorm in Iowa, fueled by an influx of foreign money exceeding $1 million. This foreign money was the basis of a campaign to encourage voters to remove 3 Justices from the Iowa Supreme Court. It was successful notwithstanding the fact that nationally a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage. Since that decision other states have followed suit.

Last night these 3 Justices, former Chief Marsha Ternus, David Baker and Michael Streit received the extremely prestigious “Profile in Courage” Award from Caroline Kennedy On Behalf Of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. This award was established in the name and to promote the legacy of President John F. Kennedy. To understand how prestigious this award is one has to look at past recipients. They include President Gerald Ford and former UN General Secretary Kofi Annan. A co-recipient of this year’s award was US Ambassador. to Syria Robert Ford for his efforts to encourage and support peaceful protesters to the repressive regime in Syria.

Now, to me, I am not asking any reader to take a position on same-sex marriage. I truly understand both sides of the issue. I believe that both sides are sincere in their beliefs. As Americans we all have the right to choose our beliefs without any fear of persecution. That is the beauty of America. I believe it is a principle reason why we are the greatest country in the world.

What I am concerned about is the freedom of the Judiciary to enforce the rule of law without fear of retribution or political pressure. If judges are required to test the winds of any one vocal group before reaching a decision our freedoms in America will be severely compromised. Politics has no place in the Judiciary. Indeed the ousted Chief Justice was appointed by a Republican Gov., Terry Branstad, and former Justice Streit was a Republican before becoming a judge who was appointed by a Democrat Tom Vilsack. The 4 remaining members of the Court were made up of appointees from both Democratic and Republican governors.

I salute these 3 distinguished Iowans who made a decision that, based upon legal principles and the Iowa Constitution, knew that they had to make regardless of what the personal consequences might be for them. I ask everyone to consider not the decision but the courageous action of these 3 Iowans who upheld the highest traditions of our judiciary in the face of personal sacrifice.

Donald G. Beattie