IS IOWA JUSTICE BLIND, OR JUST BLIND TO JUSTICE
Greetings, Special Members of Legislature Judiciary Committees and all,
The following outstanding editorial, by Sergeant Bluff Advocate editor Wayne Dominowski, is most timely and appropriate. It is thoughtfully brought to you with his permission. You, and hopefully governor Reynolds, this time will not ignore it as did politicians the editor cited in the editorial.
Iowalive A growing network of volunteer citizens and professionals for improving Iowa
Is justice blind, or is it just blind to justice?
By Wayne Dominowski
(SB) – Years ago – many years ago – I used to think that judges were beyond reproach, that they were imbued with blind justice, and that they were all great, wonderful guys (there weren’t any gal judges back then).
Fast forward to today. I don’t believe what I used to think, anymore.
In fact, I am suspicious of judges. I am suspicious because I believe at one time judges meted out justice according to our U.S. Constitution. Today, I believe judicial decisions are based more on personal views, beliefs, or self-interpretation.
Here’s how judges are selected, retained or voted off the bench:
In Iowa, we use a retention election or judicial retention as a periodic process whereby voters are asked whether an incumbent judge should remain in office for another term. The judge, who does not face an opponent, is removed from the position if a percentage of voters (often 50%) indicate that he or she should not be retained.
Retention votes are frequently thought of in connection with the assisted appointment method of judicial selection. However, some states that choose state supreme court justices in partisan or nonpartisan elections for their initial term, and use retention elections for subsequent terms on the court.
Typically, judges and justices in states with retention elections are retained with anywhere from 60% to 80% of the vote. However, retention elections are sometimes used as opportunities to remove from office judges who have made unpopular rulings. For example, in Iowa's 2010 retention election, David Baker, Marsha Ternus and Michael Streit, three Iowa Supreme Court justices, were denied retention because of the court's decision to legalize gay marriage.
Under Iowa law, the governor appoints judges from a list of nominees sent to him or her by a nonpartisan judicial nominating commission. All judges must come before voters in a retention election after their first year in office. If retained by the voters, they are cleared for an eight-year term after which they must come before the voters every eight years.
The 8 year term is the problem.
How do you de-bench a judge that turns out to be a foul-ball after he’s been voted in by the electorate? Answer: You don’t. Or, you can’t. Or, no one knows.
The trouble with the system of political appointments (that’s what they are) is unless you sit by a computer or take up residence at a county courthouse and literally follow a judge’s rulings, there’s no way of knowing whether or not he’s following the U.S. Constitution/State Constitution.
Here's two recent rulings on two separate rape cases.
A Sioux City man, Trent Warner, age 27, who pleaded guilty in Woodbury County District Court to two counts of lascivious acts with a child, was sentenced to 20 years in prison by Judge Duane Hoffmeyer. Not only must Warner serve 20 years in prison, but he was ordered by Judge Hoffmeyer to register with the Iowa Sex Offender Registry for life as well as serve a special sex offender sentence in which he will be on lifetime parole after completing his prison sentence.
Meanwhile, in Plymouth County at around the same time as the Warner sentencing, a rural Hinton man, Brady Sitzmann, age 24, was charged with raping a child. Sitzmann pleaded guilty. Judge Jeffrey Neary sentenced Sitzmann to a deferred 10-year prison term, placing him on probation for ten years and having him register as a sex offender.
How could similar crimes against juvenile girls be ruled so differently? How is it that Trent Warner must serve 20 years in prison, while Brady Sitzmann is given a 10-year deferred sentence? One guy goes to prison for the crime of rape while another guy goes free for the same offense.
How about the juvenile girls? Does what happened to them, count? What is the recompense to the underaged girls? Anyone ask either of those little girls how they feel, or the horror of their respective, terrible experiences? Do the two juvenile girls have to go for counseling/treatment? Do their parents have to pay for professional help? Does anyone care?
Whenever I see a formal photo of a judge, the background is laden with wall-to-wall, stately bound books on the law. Past cases, rulings, references, law dictionaries, labor law, criminal law, Constitutional law… hundreds of them. They must cost a fortune. Do judges actually read those law books, or are they just an office decoration? Do they use the law books for reference when judging possible similar cases, or do they have clerks do their work for them?
If you don’t know the answer to any of the above questions, you are not alone. Judgeships are a secret society. No one knows anything about them. In fact, judges and lawyers seem to form a brotherhood/sisterhood; they all know one another. I have often gotten the impression that they also stick together -- much like members of a college fraternity/sorority. It’s like they have an unwritten rule of fidelity.
While the above is going on, I am to understand that there are hundreds and hundreds of judicial appointments waiting to be filled. President Trump wants to fill those positions with competent, capable, conservative judges, but the other side – headed by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer – have gone out of their way to both slow the process down, or obstruct nominees from being considered and appointed.
The latter is a case that speaks volumes about how disrespectful and uncaring Schumer and Company are when it comes to the little people. All the big time New Yorker, and his compatriots Nancy Pelosi care about is their corrupt and morally bankrupt party.
That said, what about the two little girls? Anyone care? Or is all the talk and emotion about women’s rights, child abuse, sex trafficking and rapes, just talk?
I have sent this commentary to our Governor, Iowa state representatives and senators, and our Reps and Senators in Wash, D.C. You know what response I received? NONE. ZERO. NOTHING. Everyone is too busy raising money so they can stay in office. That, or they don’t want to take on our archaic judicial system both state and federal.
Until you people step up and demand changes, figure on everything staying the same. You voted in a President who actually is doing what you said you wanted… and look at the way he’s being treated by the lame-stream media and the liberals.