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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Varnum Effect?

To me, one of the more interesting stories arising out of yesterday is Iowa voters' dismissal of three of the seven justices of the state supreme court in their retention election. (See story here.) I think it's safe to attribute this result to the concerted campaign to oust the justices in response to the court's unanimous 2009 decision in Varnum v. Brien, which recognized sexual orientation as a "quasi-suspect" classification under the Iowa Constitution, and proceeded to invalidate the Iowa law defining marriage as being between a man and a woman.

This is hardly the first time that unpopular decisions by state court judges have factored into campaigns to unseat them in subsequent elections. Still, given both the dramatic nature of this particular result (unseating three of the seven sitting state supreme court justices), along with the increasing attention -- thanks at least in part to Justice O'Connor -- being paid to the issues raised by state judicial elections, I wonder if this result may end up being an even bigger story in the long-term than Harry Reid defeating Sharron Angle, or the size of the Republican swing in the House...

Posted by Steve Vladeck on November 3, 2010 at 08:05 AM in Constitutional thoughts, Current Affairs, Law and Politics, Steve Vladeck | Permalink


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