Judge nomination redo yields same finalists

By: - December 30, 2021 12:53 pm

Gov. Kim Reynolds rejected judicial nominations in November for the state’s 2B district. (Photo by krisanapong detraphiphat/Getty Images)

Derek Johnson, of Fort Dodge, is the newly appointed district judge for the state’s 2B judicial district, which encompasses 13 counties in north-central Iowa.

Gov. Kim Reynolds announced his appointment Wednesday, about six weeks after she rejected Johnson’s first nomination for fear of a tainted nomination process.

District Judge Kurt Stoebe, who was then the assistant chief judge of the district and chairperson of the nominating commission, allegedly disparaged two applicants and incorrectly told commissioners another applicant had withdrawn, Reynolds has said.

“Several commissioners voiced frustration with favoritism shown in the interview process toward one applicant and unprofessional comments made by Judge Stoebe about other disfavored applicants,” Reynolds wrote in a Nov. 11 letter to the commissioners.

She rejected the nominations of Johnson, a district associate judge, and Jonathan Beaty, the Humboldt County attorney, and restarted the appointment process.

Stoebe resigned his role as assistant chief judge the next day. It’s a supervisory position that oversees personnel, financial matters and case scheduling. Stoebe remains a district judge.

The commission interviewed applicants again on Dec. 14 to fill the judge vacancy, which was the result of former District Judge Gina Badding’s appointment to the Iowa Court of Appeals. They again nominated Johnson and Beaty.

Reynolds chose Johnson, a Drake University Law School graduate who was previously the Humboldt County attorney. He was appointed a district associate judge in January 2020 and presided over lower-level criminal and civil cases.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register. His investigative work exposing police misconduct has notched several state and national awards. He is a longtime trustee of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, which fights for open records and open government. He is a lifelong Iowan and has lived mostly in rural western parts of the state.