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House GOP focuses now on nominating changes for Supreme Court, Appeals Court

DES MOINES — House Republicans have scaled back their plan to change the commission that nominates judges for district courts, the Iowa Court of Appeals and the Iowa Supreme Court.

Drew Klein, a lobbyist for American for Prosperity,  said the amendment making those changes is still a good step toward making the commission more accountable to Iowans.

“I don’t think the amendment would have arrived to the committee if it were not necessary to secure votes,” Klein said.

Late Wednesday afternoon, all but one Republican on a House committee voted to let lawyers continue electing fellow lawyers to the Judicial Nominating Commissions for district courts, but legislative leaders from both political parties would start choosing half the members of the commission that selects nominees for the Iowa Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. Representative Steven Holt, a Republican from Denison, said the bill may get more tweaks as it advances to House debate.

“Iowa has a great judicial system, but that does not mean that improvements cannot be made,” Holt said.

Representative Andy McKean, a retired attorney from Anamosa, was the only Republican to vote against the changes.

“There’s an old saying: ‘Be careful what you pray for,’” McKean said. “In my opinion, this bill adds a new political dimension to the way we nominate judges in the state of Iowa and I think it may very well come back to bite the proponents of this bill.”

Late this morning, Republican Governor Kim Reynolds revealed her second pick for an opening on the Iowa Supreme Court. James Carney, a lobbyist for the Iowa State Bar Association, said that shows the current system for choosing Iowa judges works well.

“With Chris McDonald going on, he’ll be a great addition to the court,” Carney said. “With that, there’ll be five Republicans on the Supreme Court and the two Democrats will be leaving in the next four years, we know for sure.”

The retirement age for Iowa Supreme Court Justices is 70.

Democrats in the legislature are opposes to changing the system for nominating judges, but Republicans hold a majority of seats in the Iowa House and Senate.


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