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Judicial Salary Punishment

Years ago, I heard an example of authority in the military. A Navy Chief instructed a newly enlisted sailor that he wanted him to get on his knees and scrub the ship’s deck. The enlisted man had not yet learned the meaning of listening. He gave the chief a look and shook his head that basically said, “make me”. The Navy chief looked at him and said, “Son, I may not be able to physically make you clean the decks, but I can sure make you wish that you had”.

While reading this month’s ABA Journal aricles, I saw a story that reminded me of that Navy Chief. Some Iowa legislators are trying to send that kind message to some Iowa Supreme Court Justices.

A group of conservative state legislators were disturbed that in 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court had ruled to legalize gay marriage. Some of the Justices had already been voted out during a 2010 retention election. Still, four of the Justices that were part of that 2009 opinion were still on the bench. So, these legislators decided that they were going to work to slash their annual pay from $163,200 to $25,000.

Republican Representive Dwayne Alons says that he submitted the salary cut legislation because the court’s decision to legalize gay marriange was an inappropriate “shift of power”, and that these judges and the attorney general were “acting as an oligarchy” when they implemented the juducial opinion; instead of leaving it up to the legislature. Alons and his fellow legislature said that they proposed the salary cut to put the Justices on par with the salaries of legislators.

Alicia Bannon, counsel for the nonpartisan law and policy institute Democracy Progam at the Brennan Center for Justice, cautions against such legislator actions. She expressed that, “These assaults on judicial independence hurt public confidence in the judicial branch. You don’t want them (judges) to worry about being retaliated against for unpopular decisions”. Judge down

Is it a balance of powers or is it an attack on the judiciary, that could jeopardize our American tradition of impartial decision-making?

And for pic o’ day for a Monday, I thought that we needed “Party Time”:

partytime

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