March 29, 2012

Ahlers & Cooney Attorney and Former Iowa Supreme Court Justice Michael J. Streit Receives John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award

Des Moines, Iowa (March 29, 2012) Former Iowa Supreme Court Justice Michael J. Streit, mediator and arbitrator with the Ahlers & Cooney law firm, will receive the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award® at a ceremony on May 7, 2012 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, Mass. Judge Streit is Of Counsel in the firm’s Litigation, Dispute Resolution and Investigations practice area.Judge Streit will receive this award along with former Iowa Supreme Court Justices Marsha Ternus and David Baker. The justices lost their retention votes in 2010 for their part in a decision that led to legalizing same sex marriage in 2009. See the end of this release for the brief from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

"I feel very honored and humbled by the Profiles in Courage award.  Honored, because of what this award stands for and what President Kennedy believed – principled governance for our country and its citizens.  Humbled because the award recipients we join did their jobs with principle and in the national interest.  Our court followed the rule of law, strongly believing in our constitution which guarantees equality for all Iowa citizens.  I am grateful for the role I played in this decision and for this award,” said Judge Streit.  

The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award is the nation's most prestigious honor for public servants. The Award was created in 1989 to honor President John F. Kennedy and to recognize and celebrate the quality of political courage that he admired most. The Award is administered by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. A distinguished bipartisan committee named by the Foundation reviews all nominations, and selects the recipient or recipients of the award.

The Profile in Courage Award seeks to make Americans aware of the conscientious and courageous acts of their public servants, and to encourage elected officials to choose principles over partisanship – to do what is right, rather than what is expedient. The award is presented annually to a public official or officials at the federal, state or local level whose actions best demonstrate the qualities of politically courageous leadership.

Background of Judge Streit

Judge Streit served as an Iowa judge for over 27 years. Born in Sheldon, Iowa, Judge Streit received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa.  In 1975, he graduated from the University of San Diego School of Law. He practiced law in Chariton, and also served as assistant Lucas County attorney and Lucas County attorney before being appointed as a district court judge in 1983, where he served in all 16 counties of the Fifth Judicial District. Judge Streit served on the Court of Appeals and the Iowa Supreme Court. While serving on the Supreme Court, Judge Streit authored over 170 opinions. He served as Chair of the Rules committee, and on the Bar Admissions and Administrative committees. He enjoyed serving as liaison to the Fifth, Seventh and Eighth Judicial districts. 

Judge Streit, as a member of the Blackstone Inn of Court, served for two months in the British courts in London, Oxford and Birmingham. 

He received the Distinguished Alumni award from the University of San Diego for his service to the profession and the Iowa courts. He has served on a wide range of boards and committees, including the Board of Counselors of Drake Law School, and began the Iowa Judicial Institute in 1992. The Institute provides in-depth educational opportunities for Iowa judges at the Drake and Iowa Law Schools each year seeking to improve the professionalism and knowledge of judges as they serve Iowa citizens.

Speaking and interacting with people continues to be extremely important to Judge Streit since he began his career as a lawyer, and then almost 28 years as a district court judge, Iowa Court of Appeals Justice and Iowa Supreme Court Justice. Nothing gave him more pleasure than the many classes of young students who visited the courtroom to learn about the judicial system, as he shared stories while making it fun for them to learn. He continually enjoys presenting to a diversity of groups from law school students to attorneys, from Rotary Clubs to trade associations, and many more. Since leaving office, Judge Streit has made presentations concerning Judicial Independence to the Illinois Judges Association, Illinois Bar Association, and Iowa, Creighton, and Suffolk Law Schools.  Judge Streit will be speaking at the annual meeting of American Judges Association this spring. 

Excerpt from John F. Kennedy Presidential Library Foundation news release, 3/12/12

David Baker, Michael Streit and Marsha Ternus, Former Iowa Supreme Court Justices
In 2009, Iowa Supreme Court Justices Marsha Ternus, David Baker and Michael Streit joined a unanimous opinion which struck down Iowa’s ban on same-sex marriage. The decision was the first unanimous high court opinion on marriage for same-sex couples, and it made Iowa the third state to legalize same-sex marriage. The justices were aware that their opinion might not enjoy support from a majority of the public, but the Court stressed in its opinion that its responsibility was “to protect constitutional rights of individuals from legislative enactments that have denied those rights, even when the rights have not yet been broadly accepted, were at one time unimagined, or challenge a deeply ingrained practice or law viewed to be impervious to the passage of time.” Although the Court’s decision was unanimous, it provoked a political backlash. In November 2010, voters removed Ternus, Baker and Streit from office following an unprecedented campaign financed in part by national interest groups opposed to same-sex marriage. The justices’ ouster marked the first time since Iowa adopted its current judicial system that any sitting Supreme Court judge had lost an uncontested retention election. Ternus, Baker and Streit were the only three Supreme Court justices subject to a retention vote that year. They will be honored for the courage they and their colleagues demonstrated in upholding and defending the constitutional role of an independent judiciary, which has been vital to American democracy and historically responsible for the greatest advances in civil rights for all Americans


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