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I have been asked about the question of retention of Iowa court justices and judges that will appear on our ballots. To see your sample ballot go to https://sos.iowa.gov/elections/auditors/auditorslist.html
Click on your county auditor and find a sample ballot for your location.

There are 4 Iowa Supreme Court (ISC) justices up for a retention vote this year: Mansfield, Waterman, Christensen, and McDonald. All 4 of these justices are considered to be conservative and to hold to strict constructionist or originalist views regarding the interpretation of the Constitution and of the law.

I have kept track of some of the votes by the Iowa Supreme Court justices. The most notable decision, the one where the Iowa Supreme Court in 2018 struck down the 72-hour waiting period for a woman seeking an abortion, was decided 5-2. The 2 dissenting justices, Mansfield and Waterman, held to the strict constructionist position, which supported the pro-life position. These 2 are up for retention. Justices Mansfield and Waterman have had opportunity to rule on other controversial issues (Voter ID, Immigration, Law Enforcement) and their record supports their reputation as conservative jurists. Justice Mansfield was on the list of nominees President Trump used when he nominated Justice Kavanaugh for the U.S. Supreme Court.

The other 2 justices up for retention, Christensen (who is the Chief Justice) and McDonald are pretty new to the court, having been appointed by Governor Reynolds in 2018 and 2019 respectively. So they have not participated in any rulings regarding abortion or any other controversial, skyline issue that would help confirm their reputations as conservative jurists.

In short, I believe all 4 should be retained and will vote “Yes” on them.

Here are some resources you can use to help evaluate the judges:

This is the Iowa Judicial Branch’s voter guide for judicial retention elections: https://www.iowacourts.gov/static/media/cms/2020_Voters_Guide_C0C41380F18F0.pdf
It is strong on giving biographical information about the judges.

This is iVoterGuide, which is put out by Family Research Council, a faith-based group that highlights social conservative issues:    https://ivoterguide.com/All-in-State/IA?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=4f9d2305-fd76-40fd-bc29-0933f2152b91
Scroll a short way down right after the Congressional Candidates and there you find the Iowa Supreme Court justices and other judges. It has easy-to-read graphics, plus links to biographical information and analysis of pertinent court cases in which that judge participated.

This is the guide released by Iowa Right to Life:  https://www.iowartl.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/2020-Judges-Standing-for-Retention.pdf
This guide gives some biographical information and analysis of pertinent abortion cases in which that judge participated.

There is very little information other than biographical about decisions made by the lower court judges that will be on your ballot because most of their decisions apply the law pretty straightforwardly and do not touch on the controversial issues that the Iowa Supreme Court decides. So I believe “innocent until proven guilty” applies here.

(Iowa) Constitutional Convention

On your ballot will also be a question as to whether a constitutional convention should be called. This is of course in regards to the Iowa Constitution. This question is required by the Iowa Constitution to be placed on the ballot every 10 years:

“Shall there be a convention to revise the Constitution, and propose amendment or amendments to same?”   Yes or No

The Constitution already lays out a process for it to be amended that has been used for 48 amendments, no small number. I would think it is not too cumbersome if it has been used for 48 amendments since 1846. I think the current process already has served us well to change our Constitution and will continue to do so and so I do not believe there is a pressing need to call a constitutional convention.

Sandy Salmon

Author: Sandy Salmon