Monday, December 13, 2010

Iowa Supreme Court Justices

Judgement Day: It looks like all that commotion about which governor gets to pick the 3 replacements for the Iowa Supreme Court could be all but over. Outgoing Governor Chet Culver said he would pick the replacements if the State Judicial Nominating Commission sent him the list of finalists before he leaves office. Incoming Governor Terry Branstad maintained voters not only kicked out the 3 justices in November, they also voted out Culver. So this isn't Culver's call to make on the replacements.

Based on this news release from the court today, it doesn't seem like there is an issue any longer. Check out the dates. I will put them in bold. But I think the key date here is January 14th. That, by the way, is the day Branstad takes office.

Judicial Nominating Commission Begins Process for Selecting Nominees for Supreme Court

Des Moines, December 13, 2010— The State Judicial Nominating Commission, which is responsible for selecting nominees for appointment to the Iowa Supreme Court, announced today it will begin accepting applications for the vacancies that will occur when the terms of Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, Justice Michael Streit and Justice David Baker end on December 31. The Commission has sixty days to send a slate of nominees to the Governor, who makes appointments to the court.

The deadline for applications is January 14, 2011. Any citizen may submit in writing to the secretary of the commission, or to any commissioner, the names of persons for consideration as a candidate for nomination and express views concerning such candidate. Once the application time has run, the Commission will release the names of all applicants along with information about each applicant's background, experience, and qualifications. This list and other information about the nominating commission and Iowa's merit selection process will be available on the Iowa Judicial Branch website:

The Commission plans to meet the week of January 24, 2011, to interview applicants and select a slate of nominees. The meeting schedule and location are yet to be determined. However, in light of heightened public interest in judicial appointments, the Commission plans to open the interview portion of the meeting to Iowans throughout the state by streaming the interviews on the Internet.

The 15-member commission is composed of a chair, who is the senior justice of the supreme court other than the chief justice, seven lawyer commissioners elected by lawyers licensed to practice law in Iowa and seven non-lawyer commissioners appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Iowa Senate. With the exception of the commission chair, membership on the commission is limited to one six-year term. Terms are staggered. The Iowa Constitution requires that commission members be chosen without regard to political affiliation.

Iowa's process for selecting judges through the use of nominating commissions is known as merit selection. Iowa voters approved the merit selection process in 1962 by constitutional amendment. Merit selection is designed to emphasize the professional qualifications of applicants for judicial appointment and minimize partisan politics. In keeping with this design, the Commission put applicants for judicial office through a rigorous and thorough screening by reviewing extensive information about each applicant's background, education, professional skills, and experience. After the interviews, the commission sends the governor a slate of nominees. Iowa law requires nominees to be chosen "upon the basis of their qualifications and without regard to political affiliation." The governor is required to pick the new justices from this slate.

Important Notice to Applicants: To be eligible for appointment to the court, a person must be a resident of the state, licensed to practice law in Iowa, and must be of such age that they will be able to serve an initial and one regular term of office before reaching the age of 72. To be most favorably considered for balloting, an applicant must file a letter of intent to file an application with the secretary of the commission by January 10, 2011. In addition, an applicant must submit completed application forms to the commission on or before January 14, 2011.

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