A proposal under consideration in the Legislature to change the system used for the selection of judges in Iowa is a solution in search of a problem.
We know of no great groundswell of dissatisfaction about the present system among citizens.
No, this idea smacks of nothing more than a desire by majority Republicans to exercise more say in the process. The result would be unwise additional politicization of the courts in our state.
Under today's system, approved as an amendment to the state Constitution by Iowa voters in 1962, a state commission and individual district commissions make recommendations for justices and judges to the governor. Half of these commission members are lawyers elected by attorneys licensed to practice in the state and half are non-lawyers appointed by the governor. For Supreme Court justices and Court of Appeals judges, a state commission nominates three individuals for consideration; for district court judges, district commissions nominate two individuals.
We find nothing wrong with this process, through which we believe Iowans have been well served. In our view, this effective, balanced system minimizes politics and protects judicial independence.
Bills introduced in both chambers at the Statehouse would replace licensed lawyers with legislative leaders - Senate majority and minority leader and House speaker and minority leader - in making decisions on members of nominating commissions. In other words, the influence of politics on the process would grow. Consider the additional influence Republicans, who control the governor's office and both legislative chambers today, would have under this proposed change. Consider the additional influence Democrats would have in choosing judges if voters turn all the levers of power over to them in the future?
And all of this is good?
No, it's a misguided idea, in our view.
We urge Iowans to tell Republicans at the Capitol the way we pick judges in this state isn't broken and doesn't need fixing.