JOHNSTON, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Supreme Court had to rehear many cases after voters ousted three justices over a decision legalizing same-sex marriage, but it weathered the storm and emerged stronger, Chief Justice Mark Cady said Friday.
Conservative groups angered by the unanimous same-sex marriage decision spent heavily to persuade voters to throw out then-Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices David Baker and Michael Streit during retention elections in 2010. The anti-retention count totaled about 54 percent of the 54 percent of the registered voters who went to the polls that day.
Gov. Terry Branstad named Thomas Waterman, Edward Mansfield and Bruce Zager to replace the ousted judges. Those three along with Justice David Wiggins face retention elections this November.
The new court had to rehear cases in which arguments were originally made before the ousted judges but in which no decision had been made. That caused delays and raised the cost for people involved in those cases, Cady said.
"It was quite destructive in many ways," Cady said during a taping of the Iowa Public Television program "Iowa Press." "We got through it."
Cady, who wrote the opinion that legalized same-sex marriage in Iowa, said the justices have tried to make their work more visible by hearing cases throughout Iowa. The travel is meant to educate the public on court operations and how justices reach their conclusions, he said.
After voters tossed out three judges in 2010 there was some talk among conservatives of impeaching the remaining four or changing the way judges are selected in Iowa. Neither came to pass, and Cady said that was a tribute to the state's merit-based justice-selection system.
In Iowa, a 15-member panel headed by the senior justice interviews candidates when there's an opening and sends the governor three finalists. The governor appoints the new justice without a confirmation process. Half of the panel is made up of the governor's appointees and half are elected by licensed attorneys.
While no formal campaign has been started to oust any of the justices up for retention this year, Cady said the court is sensitive to public opinion and has taken steps to meet concerns.
"I'm very concerned about what might lie ahead, because I realize what happened a year and a half ago," he said. "We're working very, very hard to give Iowans what they deserve and should demand, and that's a court system that meets their needs."
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