Lawyers overwhelmingly back Iowa judges for retention in November election

by Rox Laird | September 30, 2020

Ninety-five Iowa judges — including four members of the Iowa Supreme Court and four members of the Iowa Court of Appeals — will be standing for retention in the Nov. 3 General Election.

Under Iowa’s judicial selection process, judges and justices are appointed by the governor from a list of applicants selected by nonpartisan commissions made up of lawyers and citizens. Judges then stand for retention prior to the end of their terms in a general election.

The Judicial Branch has released its 2020 Iowa Voters Judicial Directory to assist voters in learning more about the judicial retention process, which includes biographies of all 95 judges standing for retention this year.

Also, the Iowa State Bar Association has released its 2020 Judicial Performance Review, based on a survey of Iowa lawyers. The survey asks lawyers to rate Iowa judges and justices based on their knowledge, professionalism, and other criteria, and whether they should be retained on the bench.

“The overwhelming majority of the 1,497 Iowa lawyers who participated in the Bar Association’s Judicial Performance Review in September said the 87 district judges, four Court of Appeals judges and four Supreme Court Justices on the Nov. 3 ballot should be retained,” the ISBA said in the report.

All four members of the Iowa Supreme Court up for retention this year — Chief Justice Susan Christensen and Justices Edward Mansfield, Christopher McDonald, and Thomas Waterman — were supported for retention by at least 84% of the lawyers who participated in the survey.

And, all four members of the Iowa Court of Appeals standing for retention — Thomas Bower, David May, Julie A. Schumacher, and Sharon Soorholtz-Greer — were supported for retention by at least 93% of the survey participants.

Judicial retention requirements set by the Iowa Constitution and Iowa Code require newly appointed appellate judges to stand for retention in a General Election after their first year on the bench, and again at the end of each full term. Supreme Court justices serve eight year terms; Court of Appeals judges serve six year terms.

Chief Justice Christensen, who was appointed in 2018, and Justice McDonald, who was appointed in 2019, are on the ballot this year for the first time.

Justices Thomas Waterman and Edward Mansfield, who were appointed in 2011, were retained by voters in 2012.

Court of Appeals Chief Judge Bower, who was appointed in 2012, won retention in 2014. Court of Appeals Judges May, Soorholtz-Greer, and Schumacher, who were appointed in 2019, are standing for retention for the first time this year.


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