Home Law School News Drake law dean, faculty speak up on judicial selection process

Drake law dean, faculty speak up on judicial selection process

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Dean Allan Vestal

Drake University Law School Dean Allan Vestal and former Dean David Walker co-published an op-ed in the Des Moines Register on rejecting the efforts to change Iowa’s judicial selection process.

The op-ed, titled “Reject campaign to change Iowa’s judge selection process,” also was co-written by N. Willam Hines, dean emeritus of the University of Iowa College of Law.
They note that the campaign to change the selection process based on the three Iowa Supreme Court justices up for retention this fall:
“Distorts the facts and role of the court;
Misrepresents the question before Iowans this fall;
Ignores the real harm to the rule of law in Iowa the opponents’ effort threatens.”

The op-ed was written in response to a campaign to remove the three justices involved in Supreme Court’s unanimous decision that ruled same-sex couples have the right to be married based on Iowa’s equal protection laws.

Vestal, Walker and Hines argue that the justices were taking part in “the very essence of judicial duty.” 

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Rachel Caufield

Expert on selection of judges quoted in N.Y. Times article

Rachel P. Caufield, a Drake associate professor of politics who studies judicial selection, was quoted in a Sept. 24 New York Times story headlined “Voters Moving to Oust Judges Over Decisions.”

The article stated that the well-financed campaign to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices up for retention votes this year “has less to do with undoing same-sex marriage — which will remain even if the judges do not — than sending a broader message far beyond this state’s borders: voters can remove judges whose opinions they dislike.”

The merit selection system, which is used to pick supreme court justices in Iowa and 15 other states, was established to reduce politics’ influence on the composition of the judiciary. This system avoids the expensive and bitter campaigns seen in states where two candidates compete.

“The system was not designed so that people could reject one vote or one case,” Caufield told the Times. “It was designed so that people could get rid of unfit judges. It was meant as an extreme measure. The system has worked well — until now.”