Public Safety

22 applicants vie for next Iowa Supreme Court justice

15 are women

Justice Bruce B. Zager listens to lawyers during oral arguments on the Planned Parenthood v. Reynolds case at the Iowa Supreme Court Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Justice Bruce B. Zager listens to lawyers during oral arguments on the Planned Parenthood v. Reynolds case at the Iowa Supreme Court Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, in Des Moines, Iowa.

Des Moines— There are 22 lawyers and judges who have applied for the impending vacancy September 3, when Iowa Supreme Court Justice Bruce Zager retires.

Six of the applicants are from Eastern Iowa — 6th Judicial District Judge Mary Chicchelly in Cedar Rapids; Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Williams of the Northern District of Iowa; Craig Nierman with Phelan, Tucker, Mullen, Walker, Tucker and Gelman in Iowa City; Allan Richards with Richards Law Firm in Tama; Lana Luhring, attorney with Lair and Luhring Law Office, Center Point; and Abbe Stensland, chief risk officer and general counsel with Central State Bank, Lisbon.

Fifteen of the applicants are women for a court that has dominated by men. Only two women have been appointed to the high court - former justices, Linda K. Neuman, who served 1986-2003 and

Marsha K. Ternus, who served 1993-2010, according to judicial records.

This will be the first vacancy on the court since 2011 when Justice Edward Mansfield was appointed to the bench. This will also be the first appointment made by Gov. Kim Reynolds. 

The State Judicial Nominating Commission will meet July 9 in the Iowa Supreme Court courtroom of the Judicial Branch Building to interview all the applicants.

The public is invited to observe the interviews in the courtroom, and they will also be livestreamed. Those who can’t be in the courtroom or watch live, can access the archived videos later on the Iowa Judicial Branch YouTube channel.

A schedule of the interviews will be posted on the Iowa Judicial website as soon as it is available. Each applicant’s application is also posted on the website.  

Immediately following the interviews, the commission will begin deliberations to select three nominees. Once the commission selects the nominees, it will forward those names to Gov. Kim Reynolds. She will have 30 days to appoint a new justice.  

The commission will take written comments from the public about the qualifications of any of the applicants. Comments must be submitted to the secretary of the commission by the conclusion of all of the interviews.

Comments may also be e-mailed to appellate.vacancy@iowacourts.gov or mailed to the Iowa State Judicial Nominating Commission Secretary, 1111 E. Court Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50319.

The 17-member commission is composed of a chair, who is the senior justice of the supreme court other than the chief justice, eight lawyer commissioners elected by lawyers licensed to practice law in Iowa and eight non-lawyer commissioners appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Iowa Senate. With the exception of the commission chair, membership on the commission is limited to one six-year term. Terms are staggered. The Iowa Constitution requires that commission members be chosen without regard to political affiliation.

The other applicants for the bench are:

• 5th Judicial District Associate Judge Romonda Belcher, Des Moines

• 4th Judicial District Judge Susan Christensen, Harlan

• Terri Combs, attorney with Faegre, Benson and Daniels, West Des Moines

• Jean Dickson, attorney with Betty, Neuman and McMahon, Bettendorf

• Barb Diment, attorney with Barb Diment Law, West Des Moines

• Timothy Gartin, attorney with Hastings, Gartin and Boettger, Ames

• Mary Pat Gunderson, attorney in Des Moines

• Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Kahl of the Southern District, Des Moines

• Mitchell Kunert, attorney with Nyemaster Good, Des Moines

• Christine Lebron-Dykeman, attorney with McKee, Voorhees and Sease, Des Moines

• 1st Judicial District Judge Kellyann Lekar, Waterloo

• Iowa Court of Appeals Judge Christopher McDonald, Des Moines

• 5th Judicial District Judge Destria Relph, Corydon

• Anjela Shutts, attorney with Whitfield and Eddy, Des Moines

• 3rd Judicial District Judge Patrick Tott, Sioux City

l Assistant Iowa Attorney General Molly Weber, Adel

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

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