UPDATES & ANALYSIS

11.30

Appeal filed in federal constitutional challenge to Iowa gender-balance law for State Judicial Nominating Commission

by Rox Laird | November 30, 2022

Two Iowans who are seeking to enjoin enforcement of an Iowa statute requiring gender balance on the State Judicial Nominating Commission are taking their challenge to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Rachel Raak Law of Correctionville and Micah Broekemeier of Iowa City sued State Court Administrator Robert Gast, who administers elections for members of the State Judicial Nominating Commission chosen by Iowa lawyers.

Iowa Code section 46.2 requires that an equal number of male and female members be elected to the state commission that vets applicants for the Iowa Supreme Court and Iowa Court of Appeals. Raak Law and Broekemeier claim that this statute violates their rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Eight of Iowa’s 17-person State Judicial Nominating Commission are elected by Iowa lawyers, two from each of the state’s four congressional districts. Code section 46.2 requires that one elected member from each district must be male and the other female. The governor appoints the remaining nine members of the commission and is limited to appointing no more than a simple majority of those members from one gender.

Raak Law would like to seek election to the commission from the 4th Congressional District in January 2023 but cannot because the vacancy on the Commission from that district must be filled by a male to comply with the statute. Likewise, Broekemeier is unable to run for the current opening in the 1st District, which must be filled by a female.

Shortly after filing their complaint, Raak Law and Broekemeier moved for a preliminary injunction—asking the Court to temporarily bar enforcement of Section 46.2 while their case is pending. On November 20, U.S. District Judge Stephanie Rose denied the Plaintiffs’ motion. Raak Law and Broekemeier subsequently filed a notice of appeal to the Eighth Circuit.

In her Nov. 20 order, Judge Rose wrote that while the harm to Raak Law and Broekemeier by being excluded from the 2023 elections would be significant, enjoining enforcement of the law would “create an irreparable injury to the State of Iowa because it could no longer be able to enforce this duly enacted law.”

Moreover, she wrote, Iowa Code section 46.15A states that, “if any provision of this chapter is preliminarily enjoined, no judicial nominating commission shall meet to nominate persons to serve as a judge or justice while the preliminary injunction is in effect.” That provision also applies to any appeal of a preliminary injunction.

“Put simply,” she wrote, “the State of Iowa would face an enormous harm because it would not be able to fill any vacancies that occur on the Iowa Supreme Court or Iowa Court of Appeals.”

 

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