Panel to interview 12 applicants for Iowa Supreme Court vacancy

The Iowa Supreme Court at the Judicial Branch Building in Des Moines on Friday afternoon Sept. 21, 2018. (Matthew Putney
The Iowa Supreme Court at the Judicial Branch Building in Des Moines on Friday afternoon Sept. 21, 2018. (Matthew Putney/Freelance)

DES MOINES — Seven men and five women have applied to the State Judicial Nominating Commission to fill the vacancy on the Iowa Supreme Court created when Chief Justice Mark Cady died Nov. 15, according to Iowa Judicial Branch officials.

The 17-member commission, which is responsible for selecting nominees for appointment to the state’s highest court, has scheduled interviews Jan. 9 in the Iowa Supreme Court Courtroom on the fourth floor of the Judicial Branch Building in Des Moines.

The list consists of Joel Barrows, a district judge from Bettendorf; Romonda Belcher, a district associate judge from Des Moines; Mary Chicchelly, a district judge from Cedar Rapids; Ames lawyer Timothy Gartin; David May, an Iowa Appeals Court judge from Polk City; Des Moines lawyer Matthew McDermott; Iowa City lawyer Craig Nierman; Muscatine County Attorney Alan Ostergren; Cedar Rapids lawyer Dana Oxley; Lisa Reel Schmidt, an assistant Iowa attorney general; Theresa Wilson, an assistant appellate defender; and Des Moines lawyer William Miller.

Applicants must be Iowa residents licensed to practice law in the state, and be able to serve an initial and one regular term of office before reaching the age of 72, the mandatory retirement age.

The interview schedule and applications are posted on the State Judicial Nominating Commission website at The interviews are open to the public and will be livestreamed and the videos archived on the Iowa Judicial Branch YouTube channel.

Immediately after the interviews, the commission will begin deliberations to select three nominees. Their names will be forwarded to Gov. Kim Reynolds, who will have 30 days in which to appoint the new justice.

Iowans can submit written comments about the qualifications of applicants to commission members via email no later than 5 p.m. Jan. 7 at the email addresses on the State Judicial Nominating Commission website and by email to the secretary of the commission at


The commission consists of eight commissioners elected by lawyers licensed to practice law in Iowa, and nine commissioners appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Iowa Senate. The names of the commissioners are on the Iowa Judicial Nominating Commission’s website.

Democratic lawmakers and others challenged changes approved in this year’s session of the Legislature that allow the governor more control over judicial nominations, asking the state Court of Appeals to stop those changes until weighing the merits of their cases. A hearing is slated next month.

In the challenges to Senate File 638, the plaintiffs said the Legislature violated rules against “logrolling” by including unrelated matters in one bill and violated the requirement that the title of a bill contain the subject matter.

They also challenged a change in the law that gives the governor more influence over the selection of justices.

Previously, the judicial nominating commission for statewide appointments had eight members of the bar, eight governor appointees and the senior Supreme Court member.

Lawmakers eliminated the role of the senior justice and gave the governor a ninth appointee, giving the governor a majority on the commission.

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