Iowa Republicans Give Governor More Power in Judge Selection Process

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- In one of the last moves of the legislative session, Iowa Republicans passed a bill which would give the governor more power in nominating judges for lower courts.

As it currently stands, a 17-member judicial nominating commission selects the judges to be considered for court appointments. Eight of those members are elected by lawyers in the state, and eight are selected by the governor; the Senior Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court makes 17.

An amendment added to a budget bill by Rep. Steven Holt, a Republican from Denison, removes the Senior Justice and gives the governor a ninth selection.

“The court actually had sort of the majority say in the process, and we need those checks and balances,” said Holt.

House Democrats felt differently, calling it a political power grab.

“The idea is to give the governor more say in the judicial branch. It’s an independent branch. We don’t run the judicial branch. The judicial branch runs itself. It’s there as a guardian, as a protector of individual rights. This is not a step in the right direction to improve our courts system,” said House Minority Leader Todd Prichard.

Holt says giving the governor additional power in the process also means voters have a say, and he says he’d feel the same way with a Democrat in power.

“If the governor is a Democrat, then they should have that little bit of extra voice there to hopefully get those nominees, those three that they get handed to them to select from, that represent their temperament, who they’d like to put on the bench,” said Holt.

Prichard says if a Democrat was in power, this issue would have never come up and says the bill could face scrutiny from the judicial branch itself.

“I think we probably expect litigation in some fashion to challenge this, and I highly doubt it will pass constitutional muster to be quite honest because it’s just an overreach of one branch into the power of another branch,” said Prichard.

The bill awaits the governor’s signature.

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