Process to Select New Iowa Supreme Court Justice Will Begin Soon

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WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- The unexpected passing of Chief Justice Mark Cady means the process to fill his vacancy will soon begin. 

Within ten days of receiving a vacancy notice from the secretary of state, Gov. Kim Reynolds will have to call on the State Judicial Nominating Commission to begin the outreach for all potential candidates. This includes all Iowa lawyers and judges.

Justices are selected on the Merit System, which was established in 1962, where the commission researches, vets, interviews and nominates applicants.

“They will deliberate and they will ultimately select three names that they will submit to Governor Reynolds, who will then get to pick one of those to be an Iowa Supreme Court justice,” said Tom Levis, former president of the Iowa State Bar Association. 

There are 17 people on the State Judicial Nominating Commission. Eight of them are lawyers appointed to their position by their peers. The other nine are appointed by the governor. That number used to be eight, but was recently changed by Reynolds earlier this year. It is a change that has some people worried about a political imbalance on the commission.

Levis, also a current commission member for Polk County, says that from his own personal experience serving on a commission, he doesn’t think this change will give Reynolds a real advantage.

“They (commissioners) are looking for the best possible candidates for the Supreme Court. They’re not looking at politics. They are looking for the best possible candidates who they believe will be a superior Supreme Court justice. So I don’t think the fact that the governor gets an extra person on the nominating committee will have much of an impact,” said Levis.

According to the state, the official process to select a new justice can take up to three months, meaning someone will not be appointed until early next year.

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