Government

Susan Christensen named Iowa Supreme Court chief justice

#x201c;As chief justice, I will maintain my passion for child welfare and juvenile justice and do my best to lead Iowa's
“As chief justice, I will maintain my passion for child welfare and juvenile justice and do my best to lead Iowa’s judiciary in a manner which provides all 99 counties with fair and impartial justice,” says Justice Susan Christensen, named on Monday as chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court. (Matthew Putney/Freelance)
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DES MOINES — Justices of the Iowa Supreme Court on Monday selected Justice Susan Christensen of Harlan to serve as their chief.

Christensen, 57, will succeed former Chief Justice Mark Cady, who died Nov. 15. She becomes the second woman to serve as chief justice of Iowa’s highest court.

“I am honored to be selected by my colleagues as chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court,” Christensen said in a statement. “Three months ago, our court faced a sudden crisis with the unexpected death of Chief Justice Cady.”

Justice David Wiggins — who plans to retire in March — has served as acting chief justice since Cady’s death.

“I am deeply appreciative of the immediate leadership by acting Chief Justice David Wiggins,” Christensen said. “He provided the stability to push forward with the court’s work while the judicial branch and entire state grieved for the Cady family.

“As chief justice, I will maintain my passion for child welfare and juvenile justice and do my best to lead Iowa’s judiciary in a manner which provides all 99 counties with fair and impartial justice.”

Christensen was appointed to the Iowa Supreme Court in 2018 by Gov. Kim Reynolds. She will be up for retention in November.

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Her father, Jerry Larson of Harlan, was the longest-serving Supreme Court justice in Iowa history from 1978 to 2008.

In addition to judicial duties and writing opinions, the chief justice presides over oral arguments and court conferences, sets the court’s oral argument schedule, and delivers the State of the Judiciary address to the Iowa General Assembly each January.

As administrative head of the Iowa Judicial Branch, the chief justice presides over the judicial council and works with the state court administrator to manage judicial branch operations with a fiscal 2020 state appropriation of $181 million, 334 judicial officers and more than 1,700 employees in all 99 counties.

The chief justice also appoints members to Supreme Court committees and task forces to propose policies and rules of procedure and practice.

Before her Supreme Court appointment, Christensen was appointed to serve as a district associate judge in 2007 and as a District Court judge in 2015. Before becoming a judge, she practiced law in Harlan for 16 years.

Christensen earned her bachelor’s degree from Judson College in 1988 and her law degree from Creighton University School of Law in 1991.

Marsha Ternus was Iowa’s first female chief justice, from 2006 to 2010.

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