Redmond v. Carter

Decision Date23 November 1976
Docket NumberNo. 59949,59949
Citation247 N.W.2d 268
PartiesJames M. REDMOND, Petitioner, v. Hon. James H. CARTER et al., Respondents, State of Iowa ex rel. Richard C. Turner, Attorney General, Intervenor.
CourtIowa Supreme Court

James M. Redmond pro se.

Richard C. Turner, Atty. Gen., for intervenor.

Eugene Davis, David J. Grace, John K. Vernon and Paul E. Horvath of Davis, Scott & Grace, Des Moines, for respondents Carter, Allbee and Oxberger.

Harry Druker and John B. Grier of Cartwright, Druker & Ryden, Marshalltown, for respondents Donielson and Snell.

En Banc.

McCORMICK, Justice.

We accepted original jurisdiction of this case under our supervisory power in order to decide whether district court judges are eligible for appointment to the Iowa Court of Appeals. We hold they are eligible for such appointment and accordingly dismiss the petition for supervisory review and petition of intervention.

The Iowa Court of Appeals is an intermediate appellate court created by Acts 66 G.A., S.F. 1092, effective July 1, 1976. The supreme court, like the district court, has always been provided for in the Iowa Constitution. However, the legislature has always been empowered to create additional courts below the level of the supreme court. Ia.Const. art. V, § 1.

From 1857 until 1962 the Constitution provided that a district court judge '* * * shall be ineligible to any other office, except that of Judge of the Supreme Court, during the term for which he was elected.' Ia.Const. art. V, § 5 (1857). In 1962 the people of Iowa adopted an amendment to the Constitution establishing a nonpartisan merit system of judicial selection and tenure. The amendment repealed art. V, § 5, and included the following language regarding eligibility of district court judges to hold other office:

'Judges of the Supreme Court and District Court shall be ineligible to any other office of the state while serving on said court and for two years thereafter, except that District Judges shall be eligible to the office of Supreme Court Judge.' Ia.Const. art. V, § 18.

The amendment added:

'Other judicial officers shall be selected in such manner and shall have such tenure, compensation and other qualification as may be fixed by law.'

The legislation creating the court of appeals provides that appointees to the court of appeals must satisfy the same requirements as judges of the supreme court. Acts 66 G.A., S.F. 1092, § 14. Statutory qualifications for the supreme court and district court are prescribed in § 46.14, The Code:

'Such nominees shall be chosen by the affirmative vote of a majority of the full statutory number of commissioners upon the basis of their qualifications and without regard to political affiliation. Nominees shall be members of the bar of Iowa, shall be residents of the state or district of the court to which they are nominated, and shall be of such age that they will be able to serve an initial and one regular term of office to which they are nominated before reaching the age of seventy-two years. No person shall be eligible for nomination by a commission as judge during the term for which he was elected or appointed to that commission.'

Respondents James H. Carter, Robert G. Allbee and Leo Oxberger were among 15 persons nominated to fill the five initial positions on the court of appeals, and they were among the five persons appointed to the court by the Governor. At the time of their nomination and appointment they were district court judges. Respondents Allen Donielson and Bruce M. Snell, Jr. were the other two persons appointed to the court of appeals from the list of nominees.

No question is raised regarding the statutory eligibility of respondents to receive their appointments. Rather, petitioner, who is a taxpayer and state senator, and intervenor State of Iowa challenge the eligibility of respondents Carter, Allbee and Oxberger under art. V, § 18, of the amended Constitution. Petitioner also contends the ineligibility of these respondents has the effect of invalidating the appointments of respondents Donielson and Snell, but intervenor does not share that view.

The determinative question is whether art. V, § 18, must be construed and applied to make district court judges ineligible for appointment to the court of appeals until two years after they leave the district court.

The arguments of the parties on this question fall along two principal lines. One relates to ascertainment of the intent of the framers of the provision. Petitioner and intervenor insist that its meaning is evident from the language used and that such language plainly makes district court judges ineligible for appointment to the court of appeals until two years after they leave the district court. Respondents Carter, Allbee and Oxberger insist that a reasonable and practical construction of the provision, in light of its evident and demonstrable purpose, precludes its application to deny district court judges the right of appointment to higher state judicial office.

The second line of argument relates to allegations by respondents Carter, Allbee and Oxberger that the construction and application of the provision urged by petitioner and intervenor would deprive them of rights assured under the United States Constitution, including their right to equal protection of the law under the fourteenth amendment. Petitioner and intervenor deny that any such deprivation would occur.

Because we find the question is answered by examination and resolution of the parties' second line of argument, we do not reach the first. Instead, we assume for purposes of this decision that petitioner and intervenor are correct in their construction of Ia.Const. art. V, § 18, and we hold that the rights of district judges as a class under the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment to the United States Constitution would be infringed by application of that provision to make them ineligible for appointment to the court of appeals.

Federal constitutional provisions have been held in a number of cases in various circumstances to bar enforcement of state constitutional or statutory restrictions on eligibility for public office . Turner v. Fouche, 396 U.S. 346, 90 S.Ct. 532, 24 L.Ed.2d 567 (1970); Williams v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23, 89 S.Ct. 5, 21 L.Ed.2d 24 (1968); Stockton v. McFarland, 56 Ariz. 138, 106 P.2d 328 (1940); Fort v. Civil Service Com'n of County of Alameda, 61 Cal.2d 331, 38 Cal.Rptr. 625, 392 P.2d 385 (1964); State v. Superior Court of Marion County, Inc., 238 Ind. 421, 151 N.E.2d 508 (1958); Riley v. Cordell, 200 Okl. 390, 194 P.2d 857 (1948); Minielly v. State, 242 Or. 490, 411 P.2d 69 (1966); Beasley v. Cunningham, 171 Tenn. 334, 103 S.W.2d 18 (1937); State v. Zimmerman, 249 Wis. 237, 24 N.W.2d 504 (1946). Restrictions have been held to meet federal constitutional standards in other circumstances in other cases. See Jenness v. Fortson, 403 U.S. 431, 91 S.Ct. 1970, 29 L.Ed.2d 554 (1971); Quinn v. Stone, 259 So.2d 492 (Fla.1972); Johnson v. State, Civil Service Department, 280 Minn. 61, 157 N.W.2d 747 (1968); State ex rel. Gralike v. Walsh, 483 S.W.2d 70 (Mo.1972). See, generally, Annot., 28 A.L.R.3d 717.

The fourteenth amendment provides in relevant part that no state shall 'deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.' A state cannot evade this provision any more by its constitution than by legislation. Turner v. Fouche, supra.

The equal protection clause proscribes state action which irrationally discriminates among persons. Brightman v. Civil Serv. Com'n. of City of Des Moines, 204 N.W.2d 588, 591 (Iowa 1973). We recognize that it is often necessary for the state to divide persons into classes for legitimate state purposes, but the distinction drawn between classes must not be arbitrary or unreasonable. The classification must be based upon some apparent difference in situation or circumstances of the subjects placed within the one class or the other which establishes the necessity or propriety of discrimination between them. Such discrimination is unreasonable if the classification lacks a rational relationship to a legitimate state purpose. Weber v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., 406 U.S. 164, 172, 92 S.Ct. 1400, 1405, 31 L.Ed.2d 768, 777 (1972). Traditional analysis is applied to equal protection challenges involving ordinary restrictions on eligibility for public office. Bullock v. Carter, 405 U.S. 134, 142--143, 92 S.Ct. 849, 855, 31 L.Ed.2d 92, 99 (1972).

Accordingly, if a classification is employed in establishing qualifications for public office, it must be based on a real and substantial difference having a reasonable relation to a legitimate object of government. Landes v. Town of North Hempstead, 20 N.Y.2d 417, 420, 284 N.Y.S.2d 441, 231 N.E.2d 120, 121 (1967). However, under this standard a classification does not deny equal protection simply because in practice it results in some inequality. Practical problems of government permit rough accommodations, and the classification will be upheld if any state of facts reasonably can be conceived to justify it. Lunday v. Vogelmann, 213 N.W.2d 904, 907 (Iowa 1973).

The construction of Ia.Const. art. V, § 18, advocated by petitioner and intervenor has the effect of making district court judges ineligible as a class for appointment to the court of appeals until two years after they leave the district court. All other lawyers meeting the statutory requirements, including judicial officers such as part-time magistrates, full-time magistrates and district associate judges, would comprise the class of persons eligible for appointment to the court of appeals. At the same time, district judges join that group to make up the class of persons eligible for the state's highest court. Neither petitioner nor intervenor contends that the framers of art. V, § 18, intended to make any such classification. Yet, in defending their...

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