Iowa Supreme Court

susan christensen
Katarina Sostaric/IPR file

The Iowa Supreme Court announced Monday it selected Susan Christensen as its new chief justice.

Christensen is from Harlan and was appointed to the court by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds in 2018.

Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds appointed Dana Oxley to the Iowa Supreme Court Tuesday.

Oxley is an attorney with Shuttleworth & Ingersoll in Cedar Rapids, where she is focused on civil appellate work, and most of her clients are small businesses. Before that, she clerked for a federal judge on the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Oxley said she looks forward to serving the people of Iowa.

jake chapman
John Pemble/IPR

This post was updated Thursday, Jan. 23 at 11:38 a.m. 

The Iowa Constitution would be amended to say it does not protect abortion rights under a proposal advanced Thursday by Republicans on the Senate State Government Committee. 

Democrats voted against the proposal. It is now up to Republican leaders to decide if the measure will get a vote by the full Iowa Senate. 

david wiggins
John Pemble / IPR

The acting chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court highlighted the importance of respecting government institutions in his Condition of the Judiciary speech before the Iowa Legislature Wednesday.

Acting Chief Justice David Wiggins said he drew on the ideas of the late Chief Justice Mark Cady to talk about the respect the courts have for elected officials. He said both are set up to speak for the people of Iowa in different ways.

cady memorial service
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Hundreds of Iowans gathered at Drake University in Des Moines Wednesday to remember the life of Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady, who died of a heart attack Friday night at the age of 66.

Four speakers, friends and colleagues of Cady, described a kind, compassionate man who dedicated his life to fairness and justice.

mark cady
John Pemble/IPR

Advocates and politicians of all stripes are lamenting the death of Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady. He died Friday night of a heart attack at the age of 66, according to a statement from the judicial branch.

“The state lost a great man, husband, father, grandfather and jurist,” Cady’s family wrote in a statement.

John Pemble / IPR file photo

A group of attorneys and Democratic lawmakers are hoping to revive a lawsuit challenging how Iowa Supreme Court justices are chosen. A law passed in the final moments of the legislative session gave the governor more influence over the process.

polk county court
Stephen Matthew Milligan / Wikimedia Commons

The process for selecting Iowa Supreme Court justices and appeals court judges was discussed in Polk County District Court again Friday as part of the second lawsuit over changes Republican lawmakers made earlier this year.

luana stoltenberg
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Last year, Iowa lawmakers passed what was then considered the nation’s most restrictive abortion law. The “fetal heartbeat” law would have banned most abortions as early as six weeks of pregnancy. But Iowa courts stepped in, blocking that law and ensuring future attempts to restrict abortion rights would fail in the state.

Now, abortion opponents in Iowa are trying to rally support for what they see as their only path to restricting or banning abortion.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

State and federal attorneys want the Iowa Supreme Court to reverse a Tama County magistrate judge’s decision to dismiss a set of criminal charges because they occurred on tribal land. In oral arguments Wednesday, they argued a law passed by Congress last year does not entirely eliminate the state’s jurisdiction on the Meskwaki Settlement in eastern Iowa as the judge ruled.

police car
Tony Webster / Wikimedia Commons

The Iowa Supreme Court upheld police officers’ use of pretext traffic stops in a 4-3 opinion issued Friday. The ruling allows police to continue using minor infractions to pull people over when they really have a different reason to make the stop.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

A group of Iowa House Democrats is waiting to hear what comes next in a lawsuit aimed at rolling back changes to the process for choosing Iowa Supreme Court justices. The lawmakers are challenging new rules passed on the last day of the legislative session giving the governor more influence over the membership of the judicial nominating commission.

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Recently, the Iowa Supreme Court has ruled on cases dealing with Iowa's 2017 collective bargaining law, the judicial nomination process, wind energy restrictions, and jury selection and representation.

Natalie Krebs/IPR

This year has been a political roller coaster for the state’s transgender population. A March state Supreme Court decision overturned a ban on using state Medicaid dollars for transition-related surgery. Then lawmakers enacted a provision that would alter the Civil Rights Act so Medicaid could once again opt out of paying.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

The Iowa Supreme Court has upheld a 2017 law limiting bargaining rights for many state employees. In 4-3 rulings in two separate cases, the court denied arguments made by unions representing teachers and other public workers that the law violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution because it gives more bargaining rights to public safety workers.

kim reynolds
John Pemble / IPR

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds now controls a majority of the 17-member panel that nominates potential Iowa Supreme Court justices and appeals court judges. She signed controversial judicial selection changes into law Wednesday.

steven holt
John Pemble / IPR

Republicans at the Iowa Capitol approved a plan Saturday, the final day of the legislative session, to give the governor more power in the process of selecting Iowa Supreme Court justices and appeals court judges.

John Pemble/Iowa Public Radio

The Violence Against Women Act made its way through the U.S. House this week, and moves on to the Senate. The reauthorized legislation was co-sponsored by Rep. Cindy Axne, a democrat representing Iowa's 3rd Congressional District, which includes Des Moines. 

Rep. Axne joins host Ben Kieffer to discuss the act on this "news buzz" edition of River to River.

Also on the program:

christopher mcdonald
Katarina Sostaric/IPR

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds Wednesday appointed Court of Appeals Judge Christopher McDonald to serve on the Iowa Supreme Court.

Reynolds said she is proud to appoint McDonald to the court.

“On the bench, Judge McDonald has earned a reputation as a brilliant and thoughtful jurist, a hard worker and a good colleague,” Reynolds said.

Julian Garrett
John Pemble / IPR

Senate Republicans advanced a proposal out of a committee Monday that would change the make-up of the judicial nominating commissions that recommend potential judges to the governor.

The bill would allow the governor and statehouse leaders from the same political party to appoint three-fourths of the members of each commission, and statehouse leaders from the other party would appoint the remaining fourth.

Andrew Bardwell/flickr

Constitutional interpretation is at the forefront of this week's court news, with questions about the Second Amendment and gender identity dominating the conversation.

Host Ben Kieffer is joined by University of Iowa College of Law professor Paul Gowder and University of Northern Iowa political science professor Scott Peters for a look at the meaning and potential impact of several major state and federal supreme court headlines from the week. 

legislative leadership
John Pemble/IPR

Iowa’s top Republican lawmakers said Thursday they will likely consider changes to the state’s merit-based system for choosing Supreme Court justices during the legislative session that starts Monday.

At a forum with reporters, Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, accused Iowa Supreme Court justices of “judicial activism” over the past two decades. He said “the general populace” should have more say in how justices are picked.

police car
Tony Webster / Wikimedia Commons

The Iowa Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case that could determine the fate of pretextual traffic stops in the state.

dick lamb
Katarina Sostaric/IPR

The Iowa Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in a case against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which stretches diagonally across the state, and the Iowa Utilities Board.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ Senior Legal Counsel and special adviser Sam Langholz told a conservative crowd in Urbandale today that the election for governor this year could affect the makeup of the Iowa Supreme Court for decades to come.      

Langholz spoke to about 50 people at a breakfast meeting of the Westside Conservative Club at the Machine Shed restaurant.

He cited recent court decisions that conservatives opposed, and suggested that future appointees could mean different results. 

susan christensen
Katarina Sostaric/IPR file

Gov. Kim Reynolds appointed District Court Judge Susan Christensen to the Iowa Supreme Court Wednesday to take the place of retiring Justice Bruce Zager.

Christensen, 56, lives in Harlan and works in Iowa’s Fourth Judicial District. She has worked in family and juvenile law and has served as an assistant county attorney.

Iowa Public Radio

A former justice is warning a lack of diversity on Iowa’s Supreme Court could undermine its legitimacy. With an upcoming vacancy on the bench, state officials could have a chance to consider the issue. The judicial nominating commission began interviewing applicants Monday.

suzanna de baca
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

The Iowa Supreme Court struck down a law Friday requiring women seeking abortions to wait 72 hours between an initial appointment and getting the procedure.

In a 5-2 decision, the court ruled the waiting period violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the Iowa Constitution.

John Pemble/IPR

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds says diversity alone will not be enough to win an upcoming vacancy on the state’s Supreme Court. Justice Bruce Zager is retiring on September 3, 2018 and Reynolds is slated to name his replacement. It could be an opportunity to diversify a judiciary overwhelmingly made up of white men.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Twenty-two Iowans have applied to become the state’s newest Supreme Court justice.

The State Judicial Nominating Commission will interview applicants July 9 to start the process of choosing a replacement for Justice Bruce Zager. He is retiring effective Sept. 3.

This is the first Iowa Supreme Court vacancy since 2011. Some court watchers see it as an opportunity to diversify the state’s highest court because all seven justices are currently white men.

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