There’s cause for alarm on the bench of the Iowa Supreme Court. Chief Justice Mark Cady and his fellow justices have doubled down on their baseless ban on the lawful carry of firearms in courthouses statewide. The complete disregard of separation of powers by a rogue justice should be cause for concern for all Iowans, whether you feel strongly about your Second Amendment freedoms or not.
For context let’s review the chain of events that led to our current situation:
January through April 2017
The Iowa Firearms Coalitions lead the grassroots effort to pass House File 517 the largest pro-Second Amendment bill in Iowa history. HF517 includes preemption enhancements allowing citizens to sue local governments who violate section 724.28 of Iowa’s weapons law. The preemption portion of HF517 proposes that if a political subdivision — county, city, township, etc., — wrongly preempts state firearm law by passing local weapons bans citizens can sue the political subdivision in question for violating 724.28 and have the weapons ban removed.
March 14, 2017
David Boyd, Molly Kottmeyer, and Sydney Kronkrow, all state paid lobbyists working on behalf of the Iowa Supreme Court register against HF517 and begin working to try to stop its passage.
April 13, 2017
Governor Terry Branstad signs House File 517 into law. Included in the bill is the update to 724.28 Iowa’s weapons preemption law. This is a major victory for Iowans as citizens now have the ability to effectively challenge and override anti-Second Amendment local governments. Lobbyists for the Iowa Supreme Court have failed their attempt to stop HF517 from being enacted.
June 19, 2017 – 11 days before HF517 takes effect
Chief Justice Mark Cady of the Iowa Supreme Court issues a memo (available here) declaring that every courthouse, including common areas and standard business areas, are now a gun free zones. This is a critical sticking point as this overreaching memo includes the non-court related areas where Justice Cady and the Iowa Supreme Court have no jurisdiction.
June 20, 2017
The Iowa Firearms Coalition publicly calls out the Chief Justice Cady and the Iowa Supreme Court for overstepping the court’s constitutional authority. Their June 19th memo wrongly implied the Iowa Supreme Court could write law for areas of the courthouses they have no jurisdiction over, i.e.; all public, non-court related areas of a courthouse. The Iowa Firearms Coalition points out that if it’s not a courtroom, judge’s chamber or jury room the courts have no constitutional basis to dictate what happens there. These areas, such as the county auditor’s office, recorder’s office and so on, are controlled by the local government, not the courts and therefore fall under Iowa’s weapons preemption law.
July 1, 2017
HF517 takes effect in its entirety, yet courthouses across the state continue to unlawfully ban qualified, law-abiding citizens from carrying firearms in their facilities. They continue to do so under the misguidance of Chief Justice Cady and the Iowa Supreme Court.
July through December 2017
IFC lobbyists and legislative allies work on getting the Iowa Supreme Court to acknowledge they overstepped their constitutional authority and rescind and clarify their June 19th memo.
December 19, 2017
Chief Justice Cady issues another memo (available here) regarding courthouse security. Instead of rescinding the June 19th memo Cady doubles down by declaring the Iowa Supreme Court will continue with their unconstitutional courthouse weapons ban. The only exception will be if county supervisors from individual counties take the unlikely step of coming to the Iowa Supreme Court and requesting to have the weapons ban rescinded in public, non-court controlled areas of their specific courthouse.
The Iowa Supreme Court does have jurisdiction over court areas such as courtrooms, judge’s chambers, jury deliberation areas and the like. However, the Iowa Supreme Court overstepped its authority on June 19th by declaring entire courthouses, including those non-court areas, as weapons-free zones. Something they have zero power to do. The Iowa Firearms Coalition has pointed this out, both publicly and privately. Yet when challenged Cady and his Supreme Court colleagues double down, issuing a new supervisory order saying effectively saying “We’re going to keep the baseless law we wrote (without any constitutional authority to do so). If you don’t like our edict, you may have your county supervisors come ask us to repeal it in your county only. Meanwhile, we’ll continue to (wrongfully) operate as if we have jurisdiction over non-court areas in courthouses throughout the rest of the state.”
Why Should I Support Guns in a Courthouse?!?
There’s no doubt that firearms can make some people uncomfortable especially in a court setting. But don’t let your feelings about firearms, whatever they are, keep you from seeing the more significant issue at play right now. The Iowa Supreme Court’s unconstitutional courthouse weapons ban is indicative of a much bigger problem in Iowa – a Supreme Court gone rogue.
Realistically speaking there are two possible situations at play here. The best case scenario (and I use that phrase loosely) is that the Iowa Supreme Court, under the leadership of Chief Justice Mark Cady, hasn’t read or doesn’t understand the US Constitution and the separation of powers laid out within it. Judges. Do. Not. Write. Laws. It’s as simple as that. This shouldn’t be anything earth-shattering, in fact, it’s high school civics class material. Yet writing their own law is precisely what the Iowa Supreme Court has tried to do in regards to how business is conducted in areas where they have zero jurisdiction. That’s scenario number one.
Scenario number two is more likely, though it is significantly more alarming than ignorance. The scenario being the Iowa Supreme Court, under the leadership of Chief Justice Mark Cady, has willfully chosen to ignore the Constitutional boundaries placed on their office to enact their baseless edict. Then when a spotlight is shined on their unconstitutional activity, the Iowa Supreme Court doubles down by acknowledging their actions but refusing roll back their unconstitutional dictate. Instead, they put in place an onerous process that limits any possible change an extremely narrow scope. Effectively they’ve said “Yeah, we’ve done wrong and overstepped. But we’re going to keep doing wrong and if you want us to stop you can’t come directly to us. You have to have someone else ask us to stop. Now if you do that we’ll stop, but even then we’re going to continue doing wrong in every other community in the state.”
Over the last several months, the Iowa Firearms Coalition and our allies have asked the Iowa Supreme Court to show us specifically where they derive the authority to dictate how business is conducted in non-court areas. This point of contention has been brought up numerous times and every single time the Iowa Supreme Court is left tongue-tied. No legal doctrine grants Mark Cady and or any of his fellow Iowa Supreme Court justices the legal ability to do what they’re doing. The Iowa Supreme Court continues to run amok because the People of Iowa allow them to. Because the legal system is confusing. Because black robes are meant to intimidate. Because the judicial branch of government is one most normal people actively avoid. But if we don’t stand up to them, if we don’t remind these justices that judges don’t write laws, that legislating from the bench is inexcusable, that judicial overreach is not only unconstitutional it is intolerable these rogue justices of the Iowa Supreme Court will only be emboldened to go further at the next available opportunity.
What’s happening in the Iowa Supreme Court is wrong, and it is much bigger than whether or not you can carry a firearm when you go to the county courthouse to pay your taxes. This is indicative of a Supreme Court that believes it’s perfectly OK flaunting the fundamental rule of law laid out in the Constitution of the United States. Fortunately, though there’s another date on our timeline that’s fast approaching. One that the Iowa Supreme Court fears and actively wants to avoid.
January 8, 2018
The Iowa legislature reconvenes. There are numerous legislators who’ve taken note of Chief Justice Mark Cady and the Iowa Supreme Court’s cavalier behavior and wanton disregard for the Constitution. These legislators are eager to remind these rogue justices that it’s the Iowa legislature, not the Iowa Supreme Court that writes legal code in our state.
This summer Sioux County Representative Skyler Wheeler put it nicely when he said: “If the Supreme Court wants to act like legislators they need to start getting paid like legislators.” The Iowa Firearms Coalition is not going to let this insult go unchecked. We’ve already begun to put wheels in motion to place much-needed boundaries on the Iowa Supreme Court and remind them of their place in our governmental system. Expect to see much more on this matter. Please join us and help us right this wrong.