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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — The Iowa Supreme Court is poised for more turnover, as Justice Brent Appel is set to retire this summer.
Appel’s pending retirement is significant for many reasons, but perhaps foremost because he is the court’s last remaining member who was appointed by a Democratic governor.
Appel’s replacement will be the fifth appointment made by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, who became governor in 2017. Once Appel’s replacement is seated, Reynolds will have appointed five of the court’s seven judges.
The other two high court judges were appointed by Republican former Gov. Terry Branstad.
Appel’s effective retirement date is July 12. This summer he will turn 72, the age at which Iowa judges are required by law to retire.
Appel was appointed to the Iowa Supreme Court by Democratic former Gov. Tom Vilsack in 2006 and was retained by voters in the 2016 judicial retention elections.
The state judicial nominating commission, the citizen panel that interviews judicial candidates and makes recommendations to the governor, is accepting applications for upcoming Iowa Supreme Court opening until June 17, according to a state judicial branch spokesperson.
The commission will conduct interviews on June 27 and possibly June 28, and by the end of the day on June 28 will send three nominees to Reynolds. Reynolds then will have 30 days to select one of those three nominees to become the next justice.
That nominating commission was at the center of heated partisan debate during the recently concluded session of the Iowa Legislature.
Nine of the commission’s 17 members are appointed by the governor, and must be confirmed by the Iowa Senate. On Tuesday, Democrats in the Senate voted against the four of the governor’s appointees who were up for confirmation.
That means those four appointees will not serve their full term on the commission. They will remain on the commission through this summer, however, and thus will still play a role in interviewing and nominating candidates for the pending vacancy.
Appel’s retirement also comes as the Iowa Supreme Court is expected to rule on challenges to abortion restrictions approved by the Republican-majority Legislature and signed into law by Reynolds.
Earlier this year, the court heard oral arguments over a law that would require a one-day waiting period before a woman could get an abortion. And Iowa Republicans earlier this year filed legal briefs asking the court to overturn its 2019 order striking down the ban on abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
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