Government

Linn County prosecutor appointed as next district judge

Investiture hasn't been set yet

Jason Besler 

Assistant Linn County Attorney
Jason Besler Assistant Linn County Attorney

Gov. Kim Reynolds appointed Assistant Linn County Attorney Jason Besler as the next 6th Judicial District judge.

Besler, 44, will replace the vacancy left by Judge Marsha Bergan, who retired this past September. The judgeship remained open due to budget restraints.

As policy for the past few years, the judicial branch has held most positions open at least six months.

“I’m excited about the new opportunity ..., the new role, and thankful to the governor and commission,” Besler said Monday. “I will work hard to serve the people of the 6th.”

“Jason Besler has always demonstrated a genuine passion for public service and an unwavering commitment to pursing the highest ideals of the legal profession,” Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden said.

During his 18 years with the office, Besler has earned the “respect and admiration” of both the judges and defense attorneys for his professional conduct and “sense of fairness,” Vander Sanden added.

Besler, who once before applied for a judgeship before being named a nominee, said he will remain a prosecutor for possibly another week or so until he takes the oath of office. He can’t work in the county attorney’s office after taking the oath.

His investiture will be within 30 days but at date thus far hasn’t been set by the court.

The 6th Judicial District Nominating Commission selected nominees Besler and another Cedar Rapids lawyer, Ellen Ramsey-Kacena, on May 21. Their names were forwarded to the governor, who had 30 days to appoint, according to Iowa law.

Chief Judge Patrick Grady said he emailed the nominee’s names to the governor May 22.

Darin Luneckas, commission member and Linn County Bar Association president, said the commission made its selection late May 21.

Gov. Reynolds, in a news release, said she made the appointment last Thursday, but Besler, Grady and the Iowa Supreme Court were not notified until Monday.

Steve Davis, Iowa Judicial Branch spokesman, said the court is “generally not notified” by the governor’s office regarding judge appointments, and they do not track the 30-day deadline.

The governor planned to contact Besler when she made the appointment Thursday, but “attention to flooding and other matters” postponed the call, Brenna Smith, spokeswoman for the governor said Monday.

And the news release was delayed until both nominees were contacted, she added.

Besler has been a Linn County prosecutor for 18 years. He was in private practice only a few months following law school before joining the office. He has handled many serious felonies, including first-degree and second-degree murders and adult and child sexual assaults.

He was the first recipient of the Outstanding Service Award given in March by the Iowa Professional Society on the Abuse of Children for his “dedication to help and protect children, and his invaluable input on legal issues.”

The award was established last year to recognize professionals such as Besler, who “demonstrate extraordinary dedication and efforts on behalf of children,” according to the service award criteria

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Besler received his law degree from the University of Iowa College of Law and his undergraduate degree from Luther College.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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