Contact: Sandy AdkinsCommunications SpecialistNational Center for State Courts757.259.1515
Williamsburg, Va. (Dec. 30, 2010) — Four members of the seven-justice Iowa Supreme Court are being targeted for impeachment proceedings by the state's legislature, following the ouster of the other three justices by voters in the November 2010 elections. Legislators introducing the impeachment proceedings are basing their actions on the high-court's unanimous 2009 decision to approve same-sex marriage, and argue that because voters ousted the three justices who were up for retention election, the remaining four justices should be removed from the bench as well.
The four justices of the Iowa Supreme Court are not alone in facing legislative impeachment efforts in 2011. In Oklahoma, District Court Judge Thomas Bartheld is the target of legislative impeachment efforts for the second time because he accepted a plea deal, which was approved by the prosecution, defense, and the victim's parents, in a child molestation case. Judge Bartheld's removal — on the same grounds, for the same decision — was sought in 2010, but Oklahoma H.R. 1065 failed to gain sufficient support to move out of committee.
Impeachment has long been a threat with which politicians have confronted the judiciary. According to research gathered by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), since 2004 at least 14 states — Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia — have introduced legislation that would have removed a particular judge for a controversial decision or otherwise loosened the constitutional standard for judicial impeachment.
In three additional states — Georgia, Missouri, and Ohio — politicians threatened to, but stopped short of, introducing legislation to impeach a judge.
Following are some recent examples of failed judicial-removal efforts in the U.S.:
Details regarding the individual judicial-removal efforts are outlined in a special edition of Gavel to Gavel, NCSC's newsletter that tracks legislation affecting the courts.
The NCSC Backgrounder is designed to provide the media with statistics and facts related to current issues of interest.
The National Center for State Courts, headquartered in Williamsburg, Va., is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the administration of justice by providing leadership and service to the state courts. Founded in 1971 by the Conference of Chief Justices and Chief Justice of the United States Warren E. Burger, NCSC provides education, training, technology, management, and research services to the nation's state courts.