Weiner: GOP attacks on the judicial system are an attack on democracy

Sen. Janice Weiner

By Guest Post

June 7, 2024

Iowa state senator warns people and Republican officials not to forget the lessons of World War II.

The moving pictures of centenarian World War II veterans in France for the 80th anniversary of D-Day remind us of the countless American soldiers who willingly placed themselves in harm’s way, and how many paid the ultimate price.

If you visit Normandy, also walk the cemeteries, with their endless parade of white tombstones marking the graves of US soldiers who gave their lives to preserve democracy and defeat the Nazis and fascism.

Now, 80 years later, our freedoms are again at risk.

The US Constitution set forth a form of government comprised of three independent, co-equal branches of government. The judiciary is one of them, enshrined in both the US and the Iowa constitutions. Fair, independent courts are essential to our democracy.

Since a jury of his peers convicted former President Trump of 34 felonies, a New York state court, countless elected officials, including in this state, have claimed – with no basis in fact, without having reviewed the evidence or sat in on jury deliberations – that the verdict was a “sham” – a “political lynching”.

Prior to the verdict, AG Bird – our state’s highest law enforcement officer – traveled to New York and called the proceedings a “sham” and a “scam”. She is herself an officer of the court, with an ethical obligation to uphold, rather than delegitimize, the rule of law.

When Donald Trump was president, he denigrated judges with whose rulings he disagreed. He leveraged personal attacks on the judges and justices involved. At first, it was shocking. Now, it seems, we have become inured. But being a judge or a justice cannot be a loyalty test to a specific person – to one president, one politician – rather, it is a loyalty test to the rule of law and to our constitutions.

Right here in Iowa, we’ve witnessed disdain for fair courts and judicial proceedings. The GOP has made repeated attempts to politicize the judicial nominating process. They have limited the rights of ordinary Iowans to recover from life-shattering injuries and deaths, and they have valued trucking firms over injured Iowans, in both cases limiting a jury’s ability to decide what a victim is due.

In a court of law, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Sometimes you agree with the verdict or decision, sometimes you don’t. And yes, we all enjoy a First Amendment right to voice our concerns. But imagine a world where there is no fair court left to defend that First Amendment right.

Those of us who have sworn an oath to protect and defend the Constitution have, I believe, a particular duty to weigh our words and their potential consequences carefully. Because tearing down our judicial system shakes the very foundations of our democracy.

Those surviving WWII veterans who just made the trip to France for D-Day commemorations, almost certainly for the last time – who risked it all 80 years ago – have passed us the torch of freedom. It is our duty to keep it lit.

 

Janice Weiner is a state senator from Iowa City. You may reach her at [email protected].

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