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09/08/2010

But then again, they also say they're 'for freedom'. Veracity ≠ strong suit

by Jeremy Hooper

Today in Iowa, retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is speaking out in support of those Iowa state judges who the far-right social conservatives are trying to toss off the bench, simply because the justices joined a unanimous decision that granted marriage equality in The Hawkeye State. This snippet comes from Iowa Independent:

Speaking on a discussion panel run by a “coalition of legal, business and labor advocates” defending the same-sex marriage ruling, O’Connor will speak on behalf the embattled justices in hopes of curbing the growing politicization of court elections.

“She has been outspoken about what she sees as an effort to politicize the judicial process, something supporters of the Iowa Supreme Court justices said is happening in the state,” AP reported.

Sandra Day O’Connor to defend embattled Iowa judges [Iowa Independent]

Right, so it makes sense that she, like most fair-minded judges, would do this. Those who understand the role of the independent judiciary would naturally oppose the far-right' attempt to use partisan "protect marriage" stances against the judges who simply did their jobs. O'Connor understands that reasoned judicial opinions do not take a back seat to personal dislike.

But in a truly brazen turn of arrogance and deception, Bob Vander Plaats and his fellows at the so-called "Iowa For Mob Rule" "Iowa For Freedom" coalition are co-opting O'Connor's appearance, in an attempt to confuse locals into believing that retired legal scholar is on their side:

DES MOINES – Iowa For Freedom State Chairman Bob Vander Plaats thanked former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Wednesday for Iowasupporting 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.”

Iowa For Freedom Applauds Justice O’Connor For Supporting Its Cause [Iowa For Freedom]

This is absolutely egregious. A naked attempt to misrepresent what O'Connor is actually saying about the dangers of politicizing the judiciary, knowing that these matters are complex and that many locals will hear a nugget about "Justice O'Connor Supporting [Iowa For Freedom's] Cause," and then just repeat it as the gospel. And tellingly, it's a PR campaign that strikes right at the heart of the very sense of accuracy, transparency, and fair-mindedness that has compelled O'Connor out of retirement in order to protect our independent judiciary!

These "Iowa For Freedom" folks can toss out all the "judicial activist" lines they want. The only ones hoping to radically reshape our system of justice are those who think that something is right and true and good, simply because they (or their press releases) say it is!

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