Dueling bus tours in the judicial retention battle stop in Cedar Rapids

Both campaigns will continue to stop in Iowa cities throughout the week

Linda Becker (left) and Douglas Becker of Cedar Rapids and Robin Morris of Central City watch a rally supporting retenti
Linda Becker (left) and Douglas Becker of Cedar Rapids and Robin Morris of Central City watch a rally supporting retention for Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins at Greene Square Park in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday morning. (Adam Carros, The Gazette-KCRG)

CEDAR RAPIDS -  Dan Moore, Sioux City attorney, urged a crowd of about 150 Tuesday in Greene Square Park to prevent Lady Justice's blindfold from being removed by turning over the ballot in November and voting "Yes" to retain Iowa Justice David Wiggins and the other judges up for retention to preserve a fair and impartial judiciary.

Moore, with the Iowa State Bar Association's "Yes Iowa Judges" campaign, said the blindfold portrays objectivity and the scales in her hand represent impartiality, but the Iowans for Freedom, anti-retention group, don't want to maintain that system. They have allowed outside interest groups and money to influence the election.

"Justice shouldn't be for sale to the highest bidder," Moore said. "The justices applied the constitution (in 2009) to protect  the freedoms and liberties of citizens. They followed a sworn oath and applied the equal protection clause of the constitution. Removing justices won't change the (same-sex marriage) law...only the citizens and legislation can do that."

Christine Branstad, lawyer and niece of Gov. Terry Branstad, said she was also concerned about the outside money that was behind the no vote for Wiggins. She told the crowd to look at their bus - it has a Tennessee license plate.

"Bob Vander Plaats said he was going to get rid of the justices in a grass roots campaign," Branstad said. "What he did was bring in millions from Tupelo, Miss. and PAC money into the judiciary.... and that was wrong. We don't want a judicial system where judges are campaigning and where clients are giving judges money.

Vander Plaats, president of the Family Leader and state chair for Iowans for Freedom "NoWiggins" bus tour,  said on a different side of the park to about 25 or 30 supporter, the state bar's Judicial Performance Review gives voters a "clear direction" on how to vote. Wiggins only had 63 percent of the vote and received disapproval from his own peers.

"If Iowans want a Supreme Court they can trust and be proud of, David Wiggins has got to go," Vander Plaats said. "Seven judges were responsible for going outside their constitutional boundaries and Wiggins is simply number 4 in the lineup of who needs to be removed."

Tamara Scott, co-chair of Iowans for Freedom, held up a "D-" saying that was Wiggins' job evaluation conducted by his peers according to a grading system.

"This is for the Supreme Court," Scott said. "Iowans deserve better."

It was difficult at times to hear Scott and the others in her team because of  hecklers who booed and yelled during their bus stop, saying "Vote Yes," "Who's paying for the bus"  and one man told Vander Plaats "Its about equal protection, Bob, read the constitution."

Scott answered the hecklers, saying "You know you're on the wrong side when you're afraid to let the other side be heard." She urged the crowd to allow her and the others to have an honest discussion because they weren't "here as Republicans or Democrats... this is a foundational, constitutional issue."

Two men, who didn't want to be named, with the anti-retention group said they supported Vander Plaats and didn't think it was right that others were trying to prevent them from voting.

Linda Bader, of Cedar Rapids, pro-retention, said she was tired of the anti-retention group attempting to "shove religion" into this issue and politics. Everyone should have the right to marry whoever they want.

"It's a civil rights issue," Bader said.

Robin Morris, of Central City and owner of Coffee Emporium, said she came to the park to stand up for the judges and support same sex marriage.The bus tours of both campaigns were headed to Dubuque after the Cedar Rapids stop and will continue throughout the week across the state.