Iowa Supreme Court
|Iowa Supreme Court|
|Method:||Comm. select., Gov. appt.|
- 1 Justices
- 2 Judicial selection
- 3 Jurisdiction
- 4 Elections
- 5 Political outlook
- 6 Ethics
- 7 Notable cases
- 8 History
- 9 Former justices
- 10 See also
- 11 External links
- 12 References
The Iowa Supreme Court is the court of last resort for the state of Iowa. The court is composed of seven justices who serve eight-year terms. Justices are chosen through a commission-selection, political appointment method, and stand for retention in order to serve subsequent terms.
JusticesThe current justices of the court are:
|Chief Justice Mark Cady||1998-2016||Gov. Terry E. Branstad|
|Justice David Wiggins||2003-2020||Gov. Tom Vilsack|
|Justice Daryl Hecht||2006-2016||Gov. Tom Vilaack|
|Justice Brent Appel||2006-2016||Gov. Tom Vilsack|
|Justice Edward Mansfield||2011-2020||Gov. Terry E. Branstad|
|Justice Bruce B. Zager||2011-2020||Gov. Terry E. Branstad|
|Justice Thomas Waterman||2011-2020||Gov. Terry E. Branstad|
In 1962, a constitutional amendment was passed which changed the court's method of judicial selection to a commission-selection, political appointment method, sometimes referred to as "merit selection". This amendment applies to all appellate and district court justices. Judicial nominees are selected by the State Judicial Nominating Commission. The governor then makes the appointment from the list submitted by the commission. One year after the appointment, the justice must stand for retention in the next general election. If they are not retained, their term ends on January 1 following the election. Once retained, justices serve for eight-year terms. The mandatory retirement age for justices is 72.
Justices must be lawyers admitted to practice in Iowa. They must be able to serve a full term of office before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 72.
The justices of the court elect their chief justice. The term of chief justice matches that justice's regular term on the court.
All appeals in Iowa go first to the state supreme court, which then decides to take on the appeal or send it down to the Iowa Court of Appeals. The supreme court also has administrative and supervisory powers over the state's judiciary.
The Iowa Supreme Court does not provide specific numbers on its yearly caseload. According to a state judiciary publication, however:
- Approximately 2,000 appeals are filed with the supreme court each year.
- Of those, criminal appeals represent nearly 30%, appeals involving the termination of parental rights and children in need of assistance represent 25 percent and family law appeals represent almost 20%.
Justices David Wiggins, Edward Mansfield, Bruce B. Zager, and Thomas Waterman were all up for retention in 2012; all were retained. Wiggins had previously been retained; Mansfield, Zager, and Waterman were up for retention for the first time.
In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of Iowa was given a campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, Iowa received a score of 0.21. Based on the justices selected, Iowa was the 15th most conservative court. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.
The Iowa Commission on Judicial Qualifications is responsible for handling judicial misconduct. The Iowa Code of Judicial Conduct, which became effective May 3, 2010, lays out 4 canons. Each canon has several specific sub-rules which can be read here.
Removal of justices
Iowa judges may be removed by:
- Impeachment - requires a majority vote of the house of representatives and conviction by two-thirds of the senate.
- The Iowa Judicial Qualifications Commission - the commission investigates complaints of misconduct and may recommend that the supreme court remove a justice from office. The supreme court may not discipline or remove judges or justices without a report from this commission.
- Voters - Justices must be retained by voters at the end of their terms. If they do not receive a majority of votes in favor of their retention, they must leave the court.
2010 removal of justices
- See also: News: Three Iowa Supreme Court justices ousted from court, November 3, 2010
In the 2010 election, three supreme court justices--David Baker, Marsha Ternus and Michael Streit--were voted off the court. This was the first time any supreme court justice was not retained since the retention system began in 1962. The removal was linked to backlash from the court's 2009 ruling in Varnum v. Brien that removed the state's ban on gay marriage (see "Notable decisions" section below for details). The three justices had supported the removal of the ban and faced retention opposition from groups that opposed gay marriage.
In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. Iowa earned a grade of F in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.
| • Farmer liable for guest's injury during educational tour (2013)|
(Sallee v. Stewart)
|Click for summary→|
|According to a ruling issued on February 15 by the Iowa Supreme Court, farmers who choose to host educational tours for members of the public are not shielded from liability by a 1967 state law intended to promote recreation on private lands.
In dissent, Justice Edward Mansfield wrote that the law was designed from its inception to encourage farmers to offer access to and recreational use of their lands. He wrote that the court's decision "turns [the] law upside down." Sharing Justice Mansfield's concern was the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, which believed that exposing farmers to liability in cases like this may jeopardize educational tours during which the public has the opportunity to learn about farming and agriculture.
| • Question of gay marriage before the court (2009)|
(Varnum v. Brien)
|Click for summary→|
|In early December 2008, an attorney for a half dozen gay couples challenging Iowa’s same-sex marriage ban argued before the state supreme court that the law violated his clients’ constitutional rights. The case had been in the legal system for more than three years.
Advocates for same-sex marriage celebrated the ruling as a breakthrough for civil rights, while conservative critics called the ruling an attack on traditional marriage and said the court overstepped its authority. This Iowa ruling was expected to set certain precedents for nearby states as they considered changing their laws to recognize domestic partnerships. 
| • First Iowa Supreme Court decision (1839)||Click for summary→|
|In Re the Matter of Ralph, July 1839: In the Iowa Supreme Court's first decision, they found that a slave residing in the 'free territory' of Iowa could not be returned to their slave owner across state lines (in Missouri) even if they had not paid the agreed upon amount to secure their freedom in the negotiated time. This ruling came long before the Dred Scott v. Sandford case (1857), which found in favor of the slave holder, and not the slave.|
In 1846, Iowa joined the United States. Following the constitution of the federal government, the powers of the government in Iowa were divided into the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the judicial branch. In the judicial branch, the General Assembly divided the state into four judicial districts, and supreme court justices were to serve six-year terms, while district judges were elected for five-year terms. The Iowa Constitution of 1857 increased the judicial districts from four to 11, and allowed the General Assembly to reorganize districts after 1860 and every four years thereafter.
- In Re the Matter of Ralph was the first decision of the Iowa Supreme Court, which occurred in July 1839.
- Iowa was the first state to admit women to the practice of law in 1869.
|All former justices of the Iowa Supreme Court: ||click for list →|
|Jerry L. Larson||1978-2008|
|James H. Carter||1982-2006|
|Louis A. Lavorato||1986-2006|
|Linda K. Neuman||1986-2003|
|Bruce M. Snell, Jr.||1987-2001|
|Arthur A. McGiverin||1978-2000|
|James H. Andreasen||1987-1998|
|Louis W. Schultz||1980-1993|
|Charles R. Wolle||1983-1987|
|W. Ward Reynoldson||1971-1987|
|Robert G. Allbee||1978-1982|
|Warren J. Rees||1969-1980|
|Maurice E. Rawlings||1965-1978|
|M.L. (Larry) Mason||1965-1978|
|C. Edwin Moore||1962-1978|
|Francis H. Becker||1965-1972|
|William C. Stuart||1962-1971|
|Robert L. Larson||1953-1971|
|Bruce M. Snell||1961-1970|
|Theodore G. Garfield||1941-1969|
|T. Eugene Thornton||1959-1967|
|Henry K. Peterson||1955-1965|
|G. King Thompson||1951-1965|
|Norman R. Hays||1946-1965|
|Ralph A. Oliver||1939-1962|
|William L. Bliss||1932-1962|
|Harry F. Garrett||1958-1960|
|Luke E. Linnan||1958-1958|
|William A. Smith||1943-1958|
|Charles F. Wennerstrum||1941-1958|
|John E. Mulroney||1943-1955|
|Halleck J. Mantz||1943-1952|
|Frederick M. Miller||1939-1946|
|Edward A. Sager||1937-1942|
|Richard F. Mitchell||1932-1942|
|Carl B. Stiger||1936-1941|
|Wilson H. Hamilton||1935-1940|
|Paul W. Richards||1935-1940|
|Ernest M. Miller||1937-1938|
|John W. Kintzinger||1933-1938|
|Maurice F. Donegan||1933-1938|
|John W. Anderson||1933-1938|
|James M. Parsons||1935-1937|
|Leon W. Powers||1934-1936|
|Elma G. Albert||1925-1936|
|James W. Kindig||1927-1934|
|Truman S. Stevens||1917-1934|
|Byron W. Preston||1913-1934|
|William D. Evans||1908-1934|
|John M. Grimm||1929-1932|
|Henry F. Wagner||1927-1932|
|Edgar A. Morling||1925-1932|
|Lawrence De Graff||1921-1932|
|Frederick F. Faville||1921-1932|
|Charles W. Vermilion||1923-1927|
|Silas M. Weaver||1902-1923|
|Benjamin I. Salinger||1915-1920|
|Frank R. Gaynor||1913-1920|
|Scott M. Ladd||1897-1920|
|Horace E. Deemer||1894-1917|
|Winfield S. Withrow||1913-1914|
|John C. Sherwin||1900-1912|
|Charles A. Bishop||1902-1908|
|Charles M. Waterman||1898-1902|
|Charles T. Granger||1889-1900|
|La Vega G. Kinne||1892-1897|
|James H. Rothrock||1876-1896|
|Joseph M. Beck||1968-1891|
|Gifford S. Robinson||1888-1889|
|Joseph R. Reed||1884-1889|
|William H. Seevers||1876-1888|
|James G. Day||1870-1883|
|Chester C. Cole||1864-1876|
|William E. Miller||1870-1875|
|Elias H. Williams||1870-1870|
|John F. Dillon||1864-1869|
|Ralph P. Lowe||1860-1867|
|Lacon D. Stockton||1856-1860|
|George C. Wright||1855-1860|
|William G. Woodward||1855-1860|
|Norman W. Isbell||1855-1856|
|Jonathan C. Hall||1854-1855|
|John F. Kinney||1847-1854|
|S. Clinton Hastings||1848-1849|
|Thomas S. Wilson||1838-1847|
- Iowa Judicial Branch, "Supreme Court"
- Quad-City Times, "Iowa rewrites judicial ethics rules," May 1, 2010
- Iowa Judicial Branch, "Court Structure," accessed September 26, 2014
- Iowa Judicial Branch, "Iowa Supreme Court," accessed September 26, 2014
- Iowa Judicial Branch, "Guide to Iowa's Court System," December 2005
- Iowa Judicial Branch, "20th Century Reforms," accessed September 26, 2014
- Iowa Judicial Branch, "Supreme Court Justices," accessed September 26, 2014
- Iowa Judicial Branch, "Courts at a Glance," accessed September 26, 2014
- Iowa Judicial Branch, "Guide to Iowa's Court System"
- Stanford University, "State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns," October 31, 2012
- Iowa Commission on Judicial Qualifications, "Iowa Code of Judicial Conduct," accessed September 26, 2014
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- American Judicature Society, "Methods of Selection: Removal of Judges," accessed September 26, 2014
- Iowa Judicial Qualifications Commission
- USA Today, "Iowa ousts 3 judges after gay marriage ruling," November 4, 2010
- Center for Public Integrity, "State supreme court judges reveal scant financial information," December 5, 2013
- Insurance Journal, "Court: Iowa farmers who host tours can be liable," February 19, 2013
- Des Moines Register, "Farmers who host field trips are liable, Iowa court rules," February 15, 2013
- The Boston Herald, "Iowa Supreme Court considers gay marriage ban," December 9, 2008
- Fox News, "Iowa Supreme Court to Hear Gay Marriage Arguments," December 7, 2008
- NBC News, "Iowa Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage," April 3, 2009
- Iowa Judicial Branch, "Varnum v. Brien Case Summary," April 6, 2009
- Chicago Tribune, "Impact of Iowa ruling Debated by Both Sides in Indiana," April 4, 2009
- UPI, "Iowa Marriage Ruling good for Business," April 4, 2009
- Des Moines Register, "2,020 gay marriages recorded here since last April," May 18, 2010
- Iowa Courts, "A Brief History"
- Iowa Judicial Branch, "Early History," accessed September 26, 2014
- Iowa Judicial Branch, "Past Iowa Supreme Court Justices," accessed September 26, 2014
|Former||Marsha Ternus • Jerry L. Larson • Michael Streit • David Baker (Iowa) •|