What is a judicial retention election?
stand for retention election near the end of their term of office. In a retention election, judges do not have
opponents. Instead, voters decide
whether or not to retain a judge in office.
If a judge receives a simple majority of "yes" votes, the judge may
serve another full term.
Why does Iowa use judicial
voters approved a constitutional reform that replaced the process of selecting
judges by popular vote with a merit selection and retention election
process. This process promotes selection
of the best qualified applicants and ensures an impartial judiciary while
retaining judicial accountability and public oversight.
What makes a good judge?
- Integrity—honest, upright
and firmly committed to the rule of law
- Professional Competence—keen intellect,
exercises good judgment, extensive legal knowledge and strong writing
- Judicial Temperament—neutral,
decisive, respectful and composed
- Experience—strong record
of professional excellence
- Service—committed to
public service and the administration of justice
a judicial performance evaluation?
The Iowa State Bar Association "Judicial Plebiscite" evaluates each judge on
the ballot on a wide range of attributes.
The results of this evaluation are available online at www.iowabar.org
one month prior to the general election.
about a judge's personal views?
Because it is appropriate for legislators and the governor to consider public
opinion and the views of special interest groups when passing laws and adopting
public policy, citizens expect candidates for these offices to tell us their
views about issues of public importance.
judges are different.
- It is not
appropriate for a judge to consider his or her personal views or public
opinion when deciding cases. Judges
must be neutral and follow the rule of law.
- A judge has a
First Amendment right to free speech.
But if a judge announces a position on an issue the judge's impartiality
may be called into question and the judge may have to decline handling
cases involving that issue.
- Judicial ethics
prohibit judges from commenting about cases pending in court. This ensures that litigants receive a
How do I
find a judge's decisions or rulings?
The published decisions of the Iowa Supreme Court and Iowa Court of Appeals are
readily available online at www.iowacourts.gov
and in libraries in a series of books called the Northwestern Reporter 2nd. These decisions usually represent the view of
the majority of judges on the court, not solely the view of the judge writing
for the majority. A judge who disagrees
with the majority view will indicate his or her disagreement by a written
ruling of a trial court judge is a more difficult task because of the high
volume of cases. But if you know the
name of the case or the case number you can ask the local clerk of court for a
copy of a ruling.
What about an unpopular court decision?
several reasons why a voter may want to consider more than the outcome of one
case when deciding whether to retain a judge.
must follow the rule of law and sometimes this leads to unpopular results. Under the rule of law, judicial decisions are
based strictly upon the evidence presented to the court and the applicable laws
set out in our statutes and constitution.
citizens disagree with a law or a judge's interpretation of a law, they can
petition the legislature to change the law.
the course of a career a judge will dispose of hundreds of cases. One case alone is not necessarily an accurate
barometer of a judicial career.
cases that catch the media's attention often bear little resemblance to the
cases that constitute the bulk of a judge's work. Most court cases are not reported by the
media and most do not involve hot-button issues.
a higher court reverses the decision of a lower court. Reversal by a higher court does not in itself
indicate the quality of a judge's work.
Reversal could be for any number of reasons. For instance, the higher
court could be ruling on an issue for the first time or the higher court could
be clarifying its earlier opinions that served as precedents for lower court.