Iowa Supreme Court justice again refuses to recuse himself from judicial nominating challenge

Iowa Supreme Court Justice Thomas Waterman asks a question Feb. 5 during oral arguments in Jerime Mitchell and Bracken M
Iowa Supreme Court Justice Thomas Waterman asks a question Feb. 5 during oral arguments in Jerime Mitchell and Bracken Mitchell v. City of Cedar Rapids and Officer Lucas Jones before the Supreme Court of Iowa in Des Moines. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — An Iowa Supreme Court justice again has said he will hear lawmakers’ challenge to changes in the state’s judicial nominating process.

Earlier this month, six of the seven justices declined to recuse themselves from hearing the case brought by Democratic lawmakers, a member of the Judicial Nominating Commission and Cedar Rapids lawyer Bob Rush.

Rush filed a motion again asking Justice Thomas Waterman to recuse himself. The outcome did not change.

“I have carefully considered the motion to reconsider,” he wrote. “I respectfully deny (Rush’s) motion, and reiterate that I said or did nothing requiring my recusal or further comment.”

Waterman plans to participate in the coming decision whether to hear the case or transfer it to the Court of Appeals.

Recusal is largely self-policing, so it appears there is nothing more for the plaintiffs to do, Rush said.

Chief Justice Mark Cady was the only justice to recuse himself. Although he engaged in no activity to support his disqualification to hear the case, Cady said a “reasonable person could conclude that I have a personal interest and financial interest” in the outcome.


The new law, passed in the final hours of the 2019 legislative session, allows the governor to appoint a majority of the members of the commission and shortens the length of service of the chief justice. Cady’s term as chief justice will end three years sooner than under the previous law, which will reduce his salary to that of an associate justice.

At this time, the parties to the case are waiting on a ruling from the Supreme Court on whether it will grant plaintiffs’ request for oral arguments. The plaintiffs also have appealed a Polk County District Court ruling that they do not have standing to bring the legal challenge.

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