Judicial selection in Iowa

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Judicial selection in the states
Judicial selection in Iowa
Seal of Iowa.png
Iowa Supreme Court
Method:   Comm. select., Gov. appt.
Term:   8 years
Iowa Court of Appeals
Method:   Comm. select., Gov. appt.
Term:   6 years
Iowa District Courts
Method:   Comm. select., Gov. appt.
Term:   6 years

Selection of state court judges in Iowa occurs largely the same across the appellate and trial courts. All judges are chosen through gubernatorial appointment with a nominating commission (also referred to as the Missouri Plan) and must run in a yes-no retention election if they wish to serve again. Term lengths vary, as does the process for selecting the chief justice or judge.[1]

Per the Iowa Constitution, retained judges' terms begin on January 1 after their retention election.

Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and District Courts

Judges of the Iowa Supreme Court, Iowa Court of Appeals and Iowa District Courts are all appointed by the governor with help from a nominating commission. When a vacancy occurs on one of the courts, the commission submits a list of three potential nominees to the governor, who appoints one to serve as judge. Newly appointed judges serve for one year after their appointment; they must then compete in a yes-no retention election (occurring during the regularly scheduled general election) if they wish to continue serving.[1] To read more about these elections, visit Judgepedia's Iowa judicial elections page.

The table below shows other similarities across the courts, as well as some subtle differences:

Supreme Court Court of Appeals District Courts
Members: 7 9 116
Selection: Comm. select., Gov. appt. Comm. select., Gov. appt. Comm. select., Gov. appt.
Initial term length: at least 1 year at least 1 year at least 1 year
Re-election method: Retention election Retention election Retention election
Term length after retention: 8 years 6 years 6 years
Qualifications: licensed to practice law in the state; member of Iowa bar; resident of state; under the age of 72* licensed to practice law in the state; member of Iowa bar; resident of state; under the age of 72* licensed to practice law in the state; member of Iowa bar; resident of district; under the age of 72*
Selection of chief justice/judge: Peer vote Peer vote Selected by the Iowa Supreme Court
Chief term length: 8 years 2 years 2 years
*Retirement at 72 is mandatory, though older judges may apply to become a senior judge. Senior judges must work a minimum of 13 weeks a year and are to receive a monthly retirement annuity and an annual stipend. They must retire at age 78 (or 80, if reappointed by the supreme court for additional one-year terms).[2]


Limited jurisdiction courts

With the Unified Trial Court Act of 1973, the district court became Iowa's sole trial court. The court took the place of over 500 justice of the peace courts, 899 mayor's courts, 14 municipal courts and 34 police courts. The unified district courts are governed by district judges, district associate judges, associate juvenile judges, associate probate judges and juvenile magistrates.[3]

Judicial nominating commissions

Iowa's judicial nominating commissions serve to identify potential candidates to fill judicial vacancies.[4] Within sixty days of receiving notice of the vacancy from the secretary of state, a commission must forward the names of three nominees to the Iowa Governor, who will appoint one to the court.[5]

One commission exists to nominate candidates for the supreme court and court of appeals; fourteen other commissions exist to serve the district courts (one commission per district).[4]

Iowa is relatively unique in that it actively seeks citizen participation in the nomination process. Citizens wishing to nominate a potential judge are asked to submit the candidates' names in writing, along with their opinion of them.[4]

Iowa is one of twenty-one states in which the Chief Justice is elected by other justices.
State Elected by other justice Term
Alaska Yes Three years
Arizona Yes Five years
Colorado Yes Indefinite
Florida Yes Two years
Georgia Yes Four years
Idaho Yes Four years
Illinois Yes Three years
Iowa Yes Eight years
Kentucky Yes Four years
Michigan Yes Two years
Missouri Yes Two years
New Mexico Yes Two years
Oklahoma Yes Two years
Oregon Yes Six years
South Dakota Yes Four years
Tennessee Yes Two years
Utah Yes Four years
Virginia Yes Four years
Washington Yes Four years
West Virginia Yes One year
Wyoming Yes Four years

Composition

The appellate courts' commission consists of fifteen members:

  • One chairperson (the senior associate justice of the Iowa Supreme Court);
  • One elected member from each of the state's seven congressional districts (chosen by resident members of the bar who are local to each district); and
  • One appointed member from each of the state's seven congressional districts (chosen by the governor with senate confirmation).[4]

The district courts' commissions each consist of eleven members:

  • One chairperson (the senior judge of each district);
  • Five members appointed by the governor; and
  • Five members elected by the bar.[4]

To promote gender balance on the commission, each congressional district must alternate between selecting male and female commissioners, and the governor may not appoint more than four members of the same gender to the appellate court commission. District commissions follow similar guidelines: the bar must alternate between electing male and female commissioners, and the government cannot appoint more than three members of the same gender.[4]

History

Judicial selection methods in Iowa have undergone several changes in the last two centuries. Below is a timeline noting the various stages, from the most recent to the earliest.

  • 2007: The number of candidates to be submitted by the nominating commission is reduced to three.
  • 1976: The Iowa Court of Appeals is established, with judges to serve six-year terms.
  • 1973: The Unified Trial Court Act of 1973 establishes a unified district court that abolishes more than 500 justice of the peace courts, 899 mayor’s courts, 14 municipal courts, and 34 police courts. Additionally, the commission on judicial qualifications is created to investigate judicial misconduct complaints.
  • 1962: All judges are to be chosen through merit selection.
  • 1915: Municipal court judges are to be elected by popular vote to four-year terms.
  • 1876: Superior court judges are to be elected by popular vote to four-year terms.
  • 1868: A circuit court is created to handle all probate and minor civil and criminal matters. These judges are to be elected by popular vote to four-year terms.
  • 1857: Supreme court justices are to be elected by popular vote. The term length of district court judges is reduced to four-year terms.
  • 1846: Iowa's original constitution, the Iowa Supreme Court and Iowa District Courts are created, with judges elected to six- and five-year terms, respectively.[6]

See also

External links

References

IowaIowa Supreme CourtIowa Court of AppealsIowa district courtsUnited States District Court for the Northern District of IowaUnited States District Court for the Southern District of IowaUnited States bankruptcy court, Northern District of IowaUnited States bankruptcy court, Southern District of IowaUnited States Court of Appeals for the Eighth CircuitIowa countiesIowa judicial newsIowa judicial electionsJudicial selection in IowaIowaTemplate.jpg