Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady, who served on the state’s top court for more than a decade, died Friday of a heart attack. He was 66.
“Tonight, the state lost a great man, husband, father, grandfather, and jurist,” his family said in a statement.
Cady, born in Rapid City, S.D., but living in Fort Dodge, was appointed to the state Supreme Court in 1998 by then-Gov. Terry Branstad.
Justices selected him to serve as the chief justice in 2011 after voters the year before ousted three justices — including Chief Justice Marsha Ternus — after the 2009 unanimous opinion legalizing same-sex marriage in Iowa. Cady had written that opinion in Varnum v. Brien.
Cady earned his undergraduate and law degrees at Drake University and served in private practice before being appointed as a district associate judge in 1983. He served as a district court judge and an appeals court judge before being named to the high court.
“He was a wonderful individual and exceptional judge, respected and beloved by his fellow jurists. His passing is a great loss to the court and the state he so loyally served. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife, Becky, and his family,” the judicial system said in a statement late Friday.
The chief justice annually addresses state legislators with a report on the “Condition of the Judiciary.” In his final one, on Jan. 16, Cady urged legislators and Gov. Kim Reynolds to think expansively and embrace technology and opportunities.
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He told them the Judicial Branch was embarking on the “Iowa way” of continuous improvement.
“It is a plan, with each step taking us forward to the next, with each step as important as the next,” Cady said. “Our future can no longer be about taking small steps or standing still. We need to think big and take big steps. Every day, we must seek to achieve what can be imagined.”
Friday, Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver said he was “saddened to hear of the passing of Chief Justice Cady.”
“He was an honorable public servant and he genuinely cared about Iowa. On behalf of Senate Republicans, I want to extend our heartfelt sympathies to his wife and his entire family,” he said in a statement.
His passing will mark the third time that Reynolds has appointed someone to the Iowa Supreme Court since she assumed office in 2017.
Cady is survived by his wife, two children and four grandchildren.