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Bills would change Iowa’s judicial nominating system
During the campaign, Gov. Terry Branstad refused to speak about the retention election three state Supreme Court justices faced. However, he did say he wanted to change the way judges are nominated and mentioned he’d like a system similar to one used at the federal level, where he would nominate someone who would then have to be confirmed by the Iowa Senate.
House Republicans have answered Branstad’s wish with House Joint Resolution 12, which would throw out the current judicial selection method and replace it with the federal system. Under the current system, known as the Missouri Plan, appointments are nominated by an independent commission, then sent to the governor for a final selection. Branstad is currently reviewing the nine nominees for the three vacancies on the high court. He’s been given 30 days to make his three selections.
The resolution repeals the Missouri Plan effective Jan. 1, 2015, and would also include the same process for district court appointments. The Court of Appeals is left untouched.
If passed, the proposed amendment to the state constitution would need to be passed again in 2013 before going on the ballot in the following election to be ratified by voters.
Branstad voiced his opposition to the current system in an August interview on WHO-AM.
“I think the system is flawed,” Branstad said. “That’s the frustrating thing as governor. You only get to choose from the three that are nominated for the Supreme Court or District Court from two.”
The measure does not include anything on how long justices would serve. House Joint Resolution 13 explains that: Each Supreme Court justice would serve for six years after serving an initial term of office of up to two years. A Supreme Court justice or a district judge would not serve more than two succeeding terms of office.
HJR12 and 13 sponsors include Iowa Republican Reps. Dwayne Alons, Tom Shaw, Kim Pearson, Royd Chambers and Betty De Boef. Republicans Glen Massie and Mark Lofgren also signed on to HJR 12.
The League of Women Voters and the Iowa State Bar Association have already declared their opposition to the proposed amendments. No registered lobbyist has declared support.