UPDATES & ANALYSIS

12.07

Iowa Court of Appeals Affirms Lack of Standing in Case Seeking Separate Ballot for Judicial Retention Elections

by Ryan Koopmans | December 7, 2011

By Ryan Koopmans

Today the Iowa Court of Appeals decided that “printing a judicial election ballot on the same piece of paper as the general election ballot” will not lead to a “constitutional crisis,” and thus there is insufficient justification to waive the requirement of standing.  In so doing, the court affirmed the dismissal of a case brought by three Iowa attorneys (and voters) who sought a declaratory judgment that the use of a combined ballot to conduct both the general election and judicial retention elections violates Article V, Section 17 of the Iowa Constitution and is thus “illegal and void.”  The plaintiffs also sought a ruling “requiring a separate ballot for judicial elections in the future.”

The plaintiffs had asked the court to apply an exception to the standing requirement, which generally demands that plaintiffs show they are interested in the litigation and have suffered an injury in order to pursue a claim, when “the issue is of utmost importance and the constitutional protections are most needed.”  As the Court of Appeals noted, Iowa’s Supreme Court “has recognized the possibility of a ‘great public importance’ exception to standing,” but “has never found an issue of sufficient public import to apply the exception.”  Here, the Court of Appeals decided that the propriety of the use of a combined ballot “is not a question of the ‘utmost importance’ requiring us to apply, for the first time, an exception to standing.”  The case is George v. Schultz.

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