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Why Courts Matter: The Iowa Caucus



The judicial emergency crisis in our federal courts is too often an issue left out of major political conversation. This has also been true of the 2016 Iowa caucus season.

Because of this, Why Courts Matter Iowa (a coalition of Iowa organizations dedicated to ending the judicial vacancy crisis and ensuring the federal judiciary reflects America’s diverse population) has sent representatives to presidential campaign events throughout Iowa to ask candidates one question: “As President, what would you do to alleviate the federal judicial emergency crisis?”

Our representatives gathered responses to this question from six of the candidates: Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Martin O’Malley, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump. Their answers varied widely, and complete responses to their questions may be found on coalition member One Iowa’s website.

Some asserted that the judicial crisis is characterized by judges cynically misinterpreting the Constitution (Christie, Cruz, Rubio, Trump).

“We have a lot of judges who think that their job is to sit there and decide what the right thing for the country is, and then figure out a way to manipulate the Constitution to justify their outcome,” Rubio said. “That’s not their job.”

Both Rubio and Trump went so far as to suggest that the already slow nominations process should halt completely until a new president takes office. Why Courts Matter Iowa disagrees with this course of action. The lack of judges in our federal courts is forcing Americans to wait weeks, months, and even years for their day in court. Justice delayed is justice denied, and exacerbating the problem by not filling vacancies is not a just action.

Blocking judges that don’t agree with a particular policy position illustrates the main reason the judicial emergency crisis has escalated: partisan division. Two candidates (Christie and O’Malley) pointed this out in their responses.

“We are facing a time of some pretty profound divisions in our country and in our politics,” O’Malley said. “…There’s a sinking sense out there that somehow our divisions have become greater than we are.”

Despite these political divisions, candidates in both parties asserted they would work to nominate judges in a timely fashion (Bush, Christie, Cruz, O’Malley).

“Being an old federal prosecutor, I know. More judges are better,” Christie said. “We’ve got to start moving those cases through.”

These candidates, regardless of party, want our federal judicial system to work. They simply have very different viewpoints about the best method to fix it. We urge Iowans to support candidates with a non-obstructionist approach to addressing the federal judicial emergency crisis when they caucus on Monday evening and throughout the campaign season.

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