Judge selection process is at risk

It’s important to keep the procedure of choosing judges as a nonpartisan method

Anyone who has to go to court should be able to do so knowing that the judge who will preside over their case is knowledgeable, fair and unswayed by politics.

For decades Iowans have been able to walk into courtrooms with a very high degree of certainity that the judge assigned to their case embodies all three of those characteristics.

The method used to select judges for more than 50 years is a major reason the state’s jurists inspire such confidence. To reduce partisanship in the courts, the election of state judges was stopped. The elections were replaced by a selection process in which panels of attorneys and citizens review the qualifications of potential judges. The attorneys on those panels are picked by their peers in the legal profession while the governor selects the citizens. The governor than selects judges from among the candidates submitted by those panels.

That system that has served Iowa so well is now under threat. Republicans who control both houses of the legislature want to have legislative leaders, rather than attorneys, pick members of the judicial nominating panels. Apparently, they want to do this because they’re unhappy about how Iowa courts have ruled recently on abortion and same sex-marriage.

This plan is a bad idea.

And to propose such a drastic change because certain elected officials don’t like how the courts ruled on specific issues runs counter to the reason that state leaders implemented the selection process all those years ago. This kind of thing is exactly what Iowa’s leaders were trying to prevent.

Iowa has an outsanding system for selecting judges. It must be preserved.

We call on all of Iowa’s elected officials to do the right thing. In this case, putting aside politics and upholding the time-tested non-political way of picking judges is the right thing to do.