Reynolds: 'I Failed to Reach Out to Judge Besler'

Sep 19, 2018

Gov. Kim Reynolds this week defended her appointment of 6th District Judge Jason Besler, following questions about whether it met a constitutional deadline. 

The governor must make a judicial appointment by 30 days after names are submitted to her.  If the deadline is not met, the constitution requires the chief justice to make the appointment instead.

The district judicial nominating commission submitted the names of Jason Besler and Ellen Ramsey-Kacena to the governor on May 22.   However, the governor confirms the new judge, the Judicial Branch, and the media were not notified of the appointment until June 25th, four days after the 30- day deadline.

"The decision was made in a timely manner." -Gov. Kim Reynolds

Talking to reporters, Reynolds said she made her decision in time.

“I told the chief of staff and that's how we typically do it when I make the decision on who we are going to appoint and then we make the phone calls after that,” Reynolds said.  “I didn't get the phone call made.”

Reynolds said when she realized on June 25th that Besler had not been notified, her office contacted the chief justice’s office to inform them of the appointment, and then Besler was notified.     A news release to the media also went out on June 25th. 

According to documents reproduced on Bleeding Heartland, a Democratic blog, the chief justice’s office emailed the governor’s chief of staff on June 26th expressing trust that the appointment was made in time but also indicating that the law requires appointments to be made in writing.   

According to the blog, a letter went out to the media on June 21st announcing the appointment of 5th district judge Michael Jacobsen.     

Reynolds was asked why Besler’s appointment wasn’t also announced on that day.

"The Chief Justice has always considered a judicial appointment was made when it was communicated to the nominee." -Molly Kottmeyer, counsel to Chief Justice Mark Cady

“I can't tell you,” Reynolds said.  “We’re on the road. We're busy.  It wasn't intentional.  The decision had been made.”

According to a document on the blog, following up several days later on July 6,  Molly Kottmeyer, counsel to Chief Justice Mark Cady,  wrote to the governor’s chief of staff to convey “the true thoughts and feelings of the chief justice” on the judicial appointment.  

“In practice, the chief justice has always considered a judicial appointment was made when it was communicated to the nominee. […] To my knowledge, it is a practice that has always occurred within thirty days of the nomination.  

“Although the appointment was not communicated to Besler or made public until Monday, June 25, Governor Reynolds determined that the appointment was made on June 21 when she made the decision to select Besler. Consequently, the chief justice respectfully defers to and accepts the decision by Governor Reynolds that this appointment was made on June 21.”

The letter refers to the importance of “respect and comity” among the separate branches of government.

Judge Besler was installed as 6th District Judge on July 27th in Cedar Rapids.

“He’ll do a great job,” Reynolds said.  “I have great confidence in him.”