UPDATES & ANALYSIS

1.09

Appeal for injunction dropped in constitutional challenge to gender-balance rule for State Judicial Nominating Commission

by Rox Laird | January 9, 2023

The plaintiffs in a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit regarding the constitutionality of Iowa’s gender balance requirement for the State Judicial Nominating Commission have agreed to dismiss their appeal of an Iowa district court’s denial of their request for a temporary injunction.

The case now goes back to the trial court in the Southern District of Iowa.

Two Iowans – 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 Commission, which vets applicants for the Iowa Supreme Court and Iowa Court of Appeals. Raak Law and Broekemeier claim the gender-balance requirement violates their rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In November, U.S. District Judge Stephanie Rose denied the plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary injunction to block enforcement of the gender-balance statute while their case was heard. The plaintiffs appealed that decision to the St. Louis-based Eighth Circuit. [See On Brief’s earlier post on this appeal here.]

The plaintiffs also filed an emergency motion in the Eighth Circuit for a preliminary injunction pending appeal, which was prompted by the scheduled election of commissioners that was set to begin Jan. 6.

Without the injunction, Raak Law would be unable to run for the Commission because the vacancy in that district must be filled by a male candidate to comply with the statute. Likewise, Broekemeier is unable to run for the current opening in his district, which must be filled by a female candidate.

On Dec. 27, however, the Eighth Circuit denied the appellants’ emergency motion for a preliminary injunction pending appeal in a one-sentence order.

On Jan. 5, one day ahead of the scheduled voting, the parties filed a notice with the federal appeals court that they “stipulate to the dismissal of Appellants’ interlocutory appeal without prejudice to any party’s right to appeal any subsequent order of the district court.”

While the plaintiffs are unable to run for seats on the Commission, at least in this election, their case will now be heard on the merits before Judge Rose.

 

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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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