Voters solidly back all 66 Iowa judges standing for retention

by Rox Laird | November 10, 2016

After choosing a president on Election Day, voters move “down ballot” to Congressional and state legislative candidates. Iowa voters not only must go down ballot but to the back of the ballot to make important choices – including judges standing for retention.

On Tuesday voters retained seven Iowa appeals court judges and 59 trial court judges on the 2016 ballot by substantial margins.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady and Justices Daryl Hecht and Brent Appel were retained for new terms by an average of just over 64 percent of voters. Just over 70 percent of voters supported retention of four judges on the Iowa Court of Appeals – Chief Judge David R. Danilson and Judges Richard H. Doyle, Amanda Potterfield and Gayle Vogel.

Voters also approved retention of 59 judges on Iowa’s District Court. All but 15 district judges won at least 70 percent of the vote. None received less than 65 percent of the vote.

Iowa’s system of appointing judges gives the governor the job of picking from a slate of candidates forwarded by state and district judicial nominating commissions. After they are appointed to the bench, judges face retention elections in which voters have the power to remove judges they deem unfit.

That happened in 2010 when voters ousted Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices David Baker and Michael Streit following a well-funded anti-retention campaign in response to the court’s 2009 same-sex marriage decision in Varnum v. Brien.

Two years later, Justice David Wiggins faced similar though less intense opposition because of his vote to support the marriage decision, but he was retained with 54.5 percent of the vote.

Cady, Hecht and Appel were the last members of the Varnum court to stand for retention.




February 2024 Opinion Roundup

The Iowa Supreme Court entered opinions in eighteen cases during February 2024. You can read Rox Laird’s analysis of Singh v. McDermott, Selden v. DMACC, and Senator Roby Smith et al. v. Iowa District Court for Polk County. The remaining opinions from February are summarized here.


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  • Iowa Supreme Court Opinion and/or Further Review Conference
  • Iowa Court of Appeals Oral Arguments
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On Brief: Iowa’s Appellate Blog is devoted to appellate litigation with a focus on the Iowa Supreme Court, the Iowa Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.


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