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Iowa Governor 'Open To Looking At' Changing Nomination Process For Judges

kim reynolds
Katarina Sostaric/IPR
Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks at a press conference at the Iowa Capitol Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018.

Iowa’s Republican governor said Tuesday she is open to considering changing how Iowa selects judges.

Gov. Kim Reynolds was reacting to calls for change from some conservatives after the Iowa Supreme Court ruled there’s a fundamental right to abortion in the state.

Iowa’s system for choosing Supreme Court justices and appeals judges starts with a commission made up of eight people appointed by the governor and eight people elected by lawyers.

Working with one Supreme Court justice, the commission selects three nominees for the governor to choose from. According to the judicial branch, this merit-based system limits the influence of political parties and special interests. Judges also go through retention elections, in which voters can dismiss them. 

But since the 2018 Iowa Supreme Court decision on abortion rights, prominent conservatives have agitated for change.

IPR asked Reynolds if she would support changes to the judicial nominating system. Reynolds said if lawmakers are talking about that, she doesn’t want to comment on legislation before it is finalized.

“I’m open to taking a look at it,” Reynolds said. “And this is the [legislative] process that it’ll go through to make that happen. That’s how you start the dialogue.”

The legislative session is scheduled to start January 14.

Iowa’s current system has been in place since 1962 and changes would require a constitutional amendment. That would take approval from two general assemblies and ratification by voters.

A law Reynolds signed to prohibit most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected is currently held up in the courts.

Reynolds also said she did not ask for resignations from the five state agency leaders who recently announced their departures.

Reynolds was elected to her first full term as governor in November, and said these staff changes are typical for transitions.

“I had not asked the agencies to submit a resignation,” Reynolds said. “And it’s not something that there’s a certain timeline I need to meet. This is something we can take the time to put the team together and really put the right team in place so we can help move Iowa forward.”

Reynolds added she will do that on a “case-by-case basis”, and there will be more personnel announcements in January.

The directors of the corrections, public safety and revenue departments recently announced their departures. The civil rights commission director and the Iowa State Patrol chief are also leaving.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter