In an encouraging sign for the future of our state's courts, Iowans on Tuesday voted for an independent judiciary free of politics by retaining Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins.
Targeted by opponents of the Supreme Court's 2009 decision legalizing gay marriage in the state, Wiggins won retention with 54 percent support from voters. Opponents spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the campaign to remove him.
With the decision to retain Wiggins, Iowans rejected the most recent attempt to extract political retaliation for the unanimous, but controversial Varnum vs. Brien ruling and delivered a message of opposition to the short-sighted injection of politics into our state's judicial system. In short, they stood in support of the integrity of our courts.
How will opponents of Wiggins react to their loss? That's unclear, but we suggest they read the handwriting on the wall and spare the state a repeat of 2010 and 2012 when Justices Mark Cady, Daryl Hecht and Brent Appel, who also were part of the Varnum decision, stand for retention in 2016.
Bob Vander Plaats, a leader in the 2010 and 2012 efforts to remove justices, said the 54 percent support Wiggins received was "not a great validation" of the justice. Funny, but when roughly the same percentage of Iowans voted to remove Justices Marsha Ternus, David Baker and Michael Streit two years ago, Vander Plaats said Iowans had spoken "with a resounding voice."
In our view, a roughly 8 percent swing from 2010 to 2012 sends this signal: A majority of Iowans have had enough of attempts to politicize courts in our state.
This vote came too late for three qualified, competent justices who lost their jobs for following the rule of law in the Varnum decision. However, we are hopeful the vote on Wiggins spells the beginning of the end to political campaigns over judicial retention and judges in the future, including Cady, Hecht, and Appel, won't have to face what Wiggins, Ternus, Baker and Streit did.