UPDATES & ANALYSIS

2.25

Susan Christensen, the new Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court, will be first to serve a shortened term

by Rox Laird | February 25, 2020

Iowa Supreme Court Justice Susan Christensen, who was selected by her colleagues on the Court to become Chief Justice, will be the first chief justice to serve just a two-year term under a new statute enacted by the Iowa General Assembly in 2019.

Prior to the passage of Senate File 638 in April 2019 (codified as Chapter 602.4103), chief justices by statute served until the end of their eight-year judicial terms. The 2019 legislation limited chief justices to two-year terms, with the option of being re-selected for another two-year term.

The Court announced Monday that Christensen had been selected to replace the late Chief Justice Mark Cady, who died of a heart attack last November. David Wiggins, who has served as the Acting Chief Justice, announced his retirement effective March 13. The State Judicial Nominating Commission, which closed applications for Wiggins’ replacement Feb. 21, will interview applicants and submit three names to Gov. Kim Reynolds who will make the appointment.

Christensen’s ascendance on the Court has been rapid. She was appointed by Governor Reynolds in August 2018 to replace the retiring Justice Bruce Zager. She has the third-shortest tenure on the Court, following Dana Oxley, who was appointed in January to replace Cady, and Christopher McDonald, who was appointed in February 2019 to replace the late Justice Daryl Hecht.

Wiggins and Brent Appel, who were appointed by former Gov. Tom Vilsack, have served 17 years and 14 years respectively. Justices Thomas Waterman and Edward Mansfield, who were appointed by former Gov. Terry Branstad, have both served nine years.

Christensen and McDonald must stand for retention in November and, if retained, their full eight-year terms will begin Jan. 1, 2021.

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