IA Republicans Want to Cut Judges Pay to Punish Them


You would think that by now there would be almost nothing conservatives could do to shock me, but this move by Republicans in the Iowa House of Representatives leaves my jaw agape at the chutzpah. Still upset about a state supreme court ruling four years ago in favor of marriage equality, a group of Republicans in that body want to lower their pay — only of the judges who voted that way.

A handful of House conservatives want to reduce the pay of Iowa Supreme Court justices involved in a 2009 decision striking down a ban on same-sex marriages as part of an effort to maintain the balance of power in state government…

Their amendment to Senate File 442, the judicial branch budget bill, would lower the salaries of the four justices on the seven-member court who were part of the unanimous Varnum v. Brein decision to $25,000 – the same as a state legislator.

It’s not meant to be punitive, Alons and Shaw said April 23.

“We’re just holding them responsible for their decision, for going beyond their bounds,” Shaw said.

“It’s not the merits of what they said in that decision,” added Alons. He’s trying to stop “an encroaching wave” of judicial activity including decisions on nude dancing and landowner liability – decisions the Legislature also is trying to correct through legislation this session.

And if you want a pretty good working definition of audacity, Rep. Tom Shaw says that they only want to do this because of their “responsibility to maintain the balance of power” between the legislature and the judiciary. That’s so stupid and hypocritical that it’s downright offensive. There seriously is no limit to how craven these people will be.

Comments

  1. georgelocke says

    And if you want a pretty good working definition of audacity, Rep. Tom Shaw says that they only want to do this because of their “responsibility to maintain the balance of power” between the legislature and the judiciary.

    This is indeed the most offensive part of the whole thing. Freedom is slavery.

  2. Abby Normal says

    Future Article:

    In a surprising turn of events, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled today that paying state legislators more than minimum wage is a violation of the state constitution. Court watchers were shocked by the ruling. “Nobody saw this coming,” says Attorney General Tom Miller, “the case was about parking permits for a state fair.”

  3. slc1 says

    I don’t know what the laws are in Iowa but it is my information that the pay of federal appointees cannot be reduced.

  4. abb3w says

    Article I section 10 bans bills of attainder to the states; the Lovett SCOTUS case makes it clear that the “mere” use of the Power of the Purse can constitue a bill of attainder. There is no way that this can possibly become law and survive a judiciary challenge.

  5. says

    To little surprise, these are Republicans from northwest Iowa. Read: Steve King’s district. There’s a reason King is able to get reelected; many of his constituents may be just about as crazy as he is.

  6. Abby Normal says

    Abb3w, what happens when all the Justices must recuse themselves for a conflict of interest? Perhaps the legislature could appoint a special court.

  7. baal says

    What the (R) are doing in this issue is an attack at judicial independence. Don’t check with party bosses before ruling? There goes your pay. Why doe the republicans want to turn the US government into China?

  8. garnetstar says

    All the justices do is make decisions on cases that are brought before them, they don’t seek the cases out.

    It’s making decisions that the Republicans don’t like that constitutes going beyond their bounds.

    In the coming decisions on liability and nude dancing, what pay raise are the Republicans offering for a decision in their favor? You have to use the carrot as well as the stick, any good politician knows that.

  9. baal says

    “All the justices do is make decisions on cases that are brought before them, they don’t seek the cases out.”

    Yes and no.

    Yes they are limited to the cases that come up. No, the SCT (even state level) have a right to hear some cases while rejecting hearings on other cases. When i can choose among a range of options, it’s a lot like being able to rule on what you want to rule on. There is a second mechanism as well, the so called ‘test case.’ One political org or another will intentionally violate a law in a specific way with special fact scenarios (often specifically manufactured facts carried out in a pagent) to deliberately make a case get to the SCT. This happens quite a bit with SCOTUS but also with the State court equivalent.

  10. Trebuchet says

    @slc1:

    I don’t know what the laws are in Iowa but it is my information that the pay of federal appointees cannot be reduced.

    It’s the Iowa STATE supreme court. No federal anything involved.

  11. Who Knows? says

    To little surprise, these are Republicans from northwest Iowa.

    That’s little consolation. The only thing that keeps people like these in check in the rest of the state are the populations of Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and to some extent, Davenport.

  12. slc1 says

    Re Trebuchet @ #16

    I am well aware that the judges are state appointees. What I was trying to say was that federal appointees cannot have their remuneration reduced but that I don’t know if there is a similar state law in Iowa that is applicable to state appointees (although judges in Iowa are elected). However, abb3w @ #6 seems to indicate that the federal constitutional bill of attainders provision applies to state court justices. If so, the state court judges could go into federal court to get such a law overturned.

  13. lorn says

    And in a completely unrelated story the courts have determined that all expenditures relating to the installation, maintenance and use of electrical power systems, telecommunications, and indoor plumbing are in violation of the state founder’s original intent and all use of such, and related devices, must therefore cease forthwith. Candles, chamber pots, note paper and pencils will be provided to handle all their lighting, waste disposal, and communications needs. If the legislators find the climate indoors not to their liking, given that there will be no AC or central heating, they are free to open the windows. Assuming the windows are of a type that will open.

    Legislators, and staff working by candlelight, sweating, lacking Wi-Fi, no way to recharge a cell phone or laptop, and paiges burdened with overflowing chamber pots in the heat the coming summer this could get ugly. This sort of shit tossing infighting, characterized by alternating turns of overreach and temper tantrum, are always a joy to behold.

  14. imthegenieicandoanything says

    I can’t say that I’m surprised, since my ability to be surprised by anything asshole-ish, or even evil, in nature by any “conservative” was exhausted some time ago. I’d be surprised by anything beyond the smallest, one could say even “unavoidable,” acts of compassion, but it’s been so long that it’s as unlikely as finding a living member of an extinct clade.

    This is simply an example of one of the few remaining creative acts of “Republicans” – figuring out NEW ways to be corrupt, stupid, petty, ignorant, insane, bullying, evil assholes. It’s what they see as the essence of their job, and certainly also see as carrying out their imaginary god’s will, given they believe in an all-powerful, vengeful, incompetent, evil Cosmic Asshole – and seek to praise Him in every action.

  15. says

    @19: Iowa judges aren’t elected. They are nominated by a non-partisan panel, then appointed by the governor from the list of nominees. They are subject to rention elections only. A few of the judges involved in that decision lost retention elections, but it’s unliekly any more of those will succeed.

  16. Alverant says

    How is this not extortion? “Rule the way I want you to rule or else.” Thes cons need to be arrested for threatening a judge.

  17. kantalope says

    “It’s not punitive. We just want to punish them.”

    What does pun-ta-tive mean anyway?

    Besides we are conservtives: that means we believe in the rule of law, and independent judiciary, and the constitution….ahhhhh almost had you there!

  18. slc1 says

    Incidentally, if the legislature is intent on overturning the state court decision on same sex marriage, they better hurry up. If the SCOTUS accepts Judge Reinhardt’s decision, it will mean that no reversal of the ruling by the legislature will be constitutionally acceptable.

  19. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Meh, follow Shakespeares’s advice. Kill all the lawyers.*

    And supersize it. Kill anyone working in the legal field ‘side from coppers.

    * Oh wait, one of my brothers works / studies kinda close to that area. So, erm, don’t.

    @18. Who Knows? :

    “To little surprise, these are Republicans from northwest Iowa.”

    That’s little consolation. The only thing that keeps people like these in check in the rest of the state are the populations of Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and to some extent, Davenport.

    Well, hell, my state electorate is Davenport but that’s here in Oz!

  20. abb3w says

    @8, Ace of Sevens:

    But if the court strikes down a paycut to themselves, that would just be an undemocratic power grab.

    @9, Abby Normal:

    Abb3w, what happens when all the Justices must recuse themselves for a conflict of interest? Perhaps the legislature could appoint a special court.

    My (non-lawyers) guess is it could first be addressed to a lower state court, then go on to appeal at the highest state court and face the other three justices not affected by the paycut (who are unlikely to sit for that sort of tampering with judicial independence), and then head off to Federal court (since any bill of attainder is a violation of the US Constitution).

    @16 Trebuchet:

    No federal anything involved.

    The federal constitution does not prohibit reducing the pay to state judges; it does, however, prohibit bills of attainder — so, there may be a federal something indirectly involved.

    @17, slc1:

    However, abb3w @ #6 seems to indicate that the federal constitutional bill of attainders provision applies to state court justices.

    More precisely, there’s two separate prohibitions against Bills of Attainder; Article 1 Section 9 prohibits them to the federal government, and Section 10 separately prohibits them to the States.

    Though not identical (executive vs. legislative, salary payment ban vs pay cut), the proposal is similar to US v Lovett, which ruled Legislative acts, no matter what their form, that apply either to named individuals or to easily ascertainable members of a group in such a way as to inflict punishment on them without a judicial trial, are bills of attainder prohibited by the Constitution. I know of no case where the principle has been invoked for action at the state level, but my non-Lawyer’s expectation is that almost any judge would be looking at such statute with a baleful gimlet eye.

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