New York Times: Impeachment as intimidation

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"After a strong and well-financed campaign by socially conservative groups, voters in Iowa in November removed three sitting State Supreme Court justices who had participated in 2009’s unanimous ruling honoring the freedom to marry. Now several freshman Republican members of the Iowa House are readying a bill calling for the impeachment of the court’s four other justices whose terms were not up for renewal.

"For more than 200 years, no state or federal judge has been impeached to punish a judicial opinion — a record that has helped preserve the fair functioning of the courts. That isn’t stopping these politicians, nor is the fact that issuing a controversial ruling does not amount to the 'misdemeanor or malfeasance in office' required for impeachment under the Iowa Constitution.

"Iowa’s new Republican governor, Terry Branstad, has voiced opposition to the impeachment effort. Although he disagrees with the court’s marriage decision, he says the appropriate remedy is to defeat the justices in a retention vote. The Republican leader of the Iowa House, Kraig Paulsen, is bobbing and weaving, suggesting that impeachment is not one of his priorities, but that he will not stand in the way. The Democratic minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, has made clear his determination to tie up the chamber with dozens of amendments if necessary to block a vote on impeachment.

"Meantime, a leader of the November ouster campaign, Bob Vander Plaats, plans to travel throughout Iowa in coming weeks to rally support for his call for the resignation of the four remaining justices. His group, the Family Leader, has already begun raising money to carry on the fight.

"It is unlikely that Iowa’s Democratic-controlled Senate would go along with removing the judges, but an impeachment trial would be disruptive and intentionally intimidating. The nation’s democracy and cherished rights rely on keeping court decision-making above the fickle tugs of ordinary politics. Ousting judges to register disagreement with a particular court decision is a dangerous road to go down."

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