DES MOINES --- 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.

“It’s our responsibility to maintain the balance of power” between the three co-equal branches of government, Rep. Tom Shaw, R-Laurens, said Tuesday.

The justices “trashed the separation of powers” with their unanimous Varnum v. Brein decision and implementation of same-sex marriage without a change in state law banning any marriages expect between one man and one woman, added Rep. Dwayne Alons, R-Hull.

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.

That view is not universally shared.

“How ridiculous can you get?” wondered Senate Judiciary Chairman Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids. Alons, Shaw and three other co-sponsors of House Amendment 1327 misunderstand the role of the court as well as the relationship between the court and the Legislature, he said.

The court routinely interprets state law, Hogg said, and the Legislature is free to pass clarifying language. That’s what is being proposed in the case of nude dancing and landowner liability.

Since the 1803 Marbury v. Madison U.S. Supreme Court decision, however, it’s been left to the courts to interpret the Constitution, Hogg said.

Under the amendment, justices’ salaries would be lowered when voters approve a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

In the meantime, Hogg suggested that a plan to pay justices differently based on their role in one case would be unlikely to withstand a court challenge.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Alons said.

(16) comments

Bassopotamus
Bassopotamus

This is quite possibly the dumbest response to the Varnum decision, in a long line of dumb responses

ChiGuy10
ChiGuy10

Absolutely ridiculous. They did their job and interpreted the law and now they are punished for their decision. Move on to other issues the state is facing that is of worthiness to spend time on.

IowanAtheist
IowanAtheist

One would hope that the elected Representatives would understand what the role of the justices is in our legal system, but it's clear that they do not. Face it, the justices did exactly what their job required of them -- struck down an unconstitutional law. That is not 'going beyond their bounds' -- it's doing *exactly* what their bounds require of them. To have not struck down an unconstitutional law, based on political pressures, would have been neglecting their duties.

BIL
BIL

This is the stupidest thing I've read so far this week.

It's not punitive... It's just, you know, to punish them.

I hope the citizens of Laurens and Hull are seeing what ignorant, time-wasting buffoons their representatives are.

futureushistteach
futureushistteach

I agree with this legislator!!!
These justices took the law into their own hands and substituted their decision (warped as it is) for the decision of the people. The decision on whether to allow same - gender marriage should be with the people, as it was in other states. These judges took that right away from us and they should be held accountable for it. Most were, as they were voted out of office. If judges are so arrogant as to believe they are allowed to change the law, then there should be punishments for doing so. Judges are to interpret, not change the law.
Not that this bill will go anywhere as there are too many liberals with their own warped agenda that will get in the way.

BIL
BIL

"Future Teacher", eh?

The justices interpreted the law (the state constitution) and found that it gave same-sex couples the right to marry.

What law is it do you think they wrote?

Most are still in office - only 3 of the 7 were voted out. That's a little history you may want to brush up on.

I guess my agenda of letting gays marry because it's important to them and makes no difference to me is "warped".

Bassopotamus
Bassopotamus

All laws of a general nature shall have a uniform operation; the general assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens.

Article 1, section 6 of the Iowa constitution.

Not that I harbor any illusions that you have ever actually read the Iowa Constitution, the Varnum decision, or have the foggiest idea of what judicial review is.

GloriaJL
GloriaJL

This is absurd. It was our legislature that passed the laws setting up this decision. Our legislature once again shows itself as being totally off the wall. It's downright embarrassing. I, too, wonder how some of these guys get elected. Hopefully this amendment will die a slow death, along with some of the other dumb laws that have been considered in this session.

75unigrad
75unigrad

There should be competency tests required before you can run for state office. Sadly, there are very few existing elected officials that would be able to pass.

75unigrad
75unigrad

And while we're at it, Iowa's 4th district should be ceded to Minnesota. It would raise the IQ in both states and might actually make Michele Bachmann look sane.

Bassopotamus
Bassopotamus

... and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.

Article III, Section 1 of the US constitution. To be clear, this is the US constitution, so it may or may not apply to Iowa Judges. But this is how separation of powers works. Not letting legislators take punitive action against judges for decisions they don't like.

reojoe
reojoe

Someone should introduce a bill lowering pay for ignorant House members.

TC10
TC10

I can't believe that the eminently sensible Iowans will accept this kind of obviously unconstitutional threat (clearly violates the equal protection clause, and separation of powers principles) . What's next, for this clown, we'll seize your children if you don't decide the way we prefer? That being said, the hysterics that dominate the Iowa Republican caucus bring discredit to a much admired state. In the future it appears that Iowans will have the opportunity to reject statewide one of the leaders of the crazy club, Rep. Steve King should he attempt a promotion to the United States Senate.

reojoe
reojoe

Who cares about the Constitution when immorality is involved!?

brad6000
brad6000

How about lowering the pay of Iowa legislators who waste taxpayer dollars promoting political vendettas with bills that have zero chance of even getting out of committee? How about lowering the pay of legislators who fail to demonstrate an average 5th grader's knowledge of the three branches of government and the role each plays in the separation of powers? It takes a real imbecile to embarrass yourself with such blatant ignorance. If you voted for one of these legislators you should be hiding your face in shame.

Arbie
Arbie

So, let me get this straight. The representative accuses the judge of violating separation of powers by interpreting law in a certain way. The judges' decision didn't even reach far enough as to affect the legislators, just a product of their efforts. The remedy the representative suggests takes the form of allowing the legislature to penalize and boss the judiciary around. And THAT doesn't strike the dumb representative as violating separation of powers?! Holy cow. Teh stoopid, it hurts!!!

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.