Iowans remember Mark Cady, the man and the chief justice

by Rox Laird | November 19, 2019

In the days following the Nov. 15 death of Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady, many people have recalled personal encounters with the Fort Dodge man who served Iowa’s courts for 36 years.

Touching remembrances ranged from the sports editor of the Fort Dodge Messenger who was approached by Cady on the sidelines of a high school football game and who found the chief justice disarmingly warm and engaging, to members of the Court, past and present, who have shared their thoughts on the Court’s website.

Justice Edward Mansfield expressed a common sentiment about Cady’s human touch in a remembrance posted this week:

“For Chief Justice Cady, it was ‘no Iowan left behind.’ But this wasn’t just something he championed in his legal rulings — although he certainly did that,” Mansfield wrote. “He lived the same way. No matter what your job or position or how he came to meet you or whether you agreed with him, he looked directly into your eyes and saw great value in you. He had a disarming way of tapping his hand on the back of your shoulder at the end of a meeting that conveyed simply and powerfully, ‘You matter to me.’ ”

On Brief contributor Rox Laird recalled the time when he sat down with the chief justice for an interview in 2016, ahead of the last time Cady stood for retention. Cady talked at length about his judicial philosophy and his approach to the job of managing Iowa’s court system.

Cady had risen rapidly through the court system, from District Associate judge, to the District Court, to the Court of Appeals, and then to the Supreme Court. Was that by design, he was asked?

“It was in no way by design,” he said. “In fact, I can remember when I was sworn in as a District Court judge feeling that if I never accomplish anything else in life, this would satisfy me. I could do this forever. And, it was really true: I loved that job. I loved working with lawyers. I loved the ups, the excitement, everything about the courtroom activity. But I think those eight years on the District Court bench really revealed to me a broader perspective of the power of our justice system. And in my work I found the most satisfaction in writing opinions and trying to express to lawyers and litigants why this is the outcome that should result. I think that’s what then made me think the appellate courts would be a nice place to be.”

In that 2016 interview, Cady said he did not think about retirement, in part because he enjoyed the job and he felt there was more he wanted to accomplish.

“Well, I don’t think about retirement,” he said. “Sometimes I look around and see my peers not only thinking about it but doing it, and it makes me think, why am I not thinking about it? But I feel motivated. I enjoy coming to work every day even though I know there’s a lot I have to do. But I still feel like there’s more to be accomplished. I’d just like to do a little bit more. I don’t see myself as staying here till I’m 72. There are other things in life, and maybe there is that book in me I might want to spend time with. But right now I feel like we’re doing pretty good and I’d like to leave it in a little better shape than it is now and there are a few things left to be done.”

The complete edited text of that interview can be found at this link.


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