Reynolds poised to make fifth Supreme Court appointment

By: - June 20, 2022 5:05 pm

Members of the Iowa Supreme Court enter the chamber on April 13, 2022. (Screen shot from Iowa Judicial Branch livestream)

Five people have applied to succeed the lone remaining Democrat-appointed justice of the Iowa Supreme Court — Justice Brent Appel, who is required by law to retire this year because of his age.

The Iowa Judicial Branch on Monday announced the following applicants:

Timothy Gartin, an Ames attorney, city council member and Iowa State University lecturer.
Alan Heavens, a district court judge from Garnavillo in far northeast Iowa and former Clayton County attorney.
David May, an Iowa Court of Appeals judge from Polk City and former district court judge.
William Miller, a Des Moines attorney who was a law clerk for former Chief Justice Mark Cady.
Patrick Tott, a chief district court judge from Sioux City.

The applicants are set to be interviewed by the State Judicial Nominating Commission on June 27. The 17-member commission will select three finalists to recommend to Gov. Kim Reynolds, who appoints the new justice.

The commission is soliciting public feedback about the qualifications of the applicants, which can be submitted by email to [email protected]. Those comments are due Thursday, June 23.

It will be Reynolds’ fifth appointment to the seven-member court. It comes on the heels of a recent Iowa Supreme Court decision that reversed a 2018 ruling that had established abortion as a right guaranteed by the state constitution. Reynolds did not appoint any of the justices who joined the 2018 ruling, and just one of the four new justices disagreed with the majority in the recent decision.

“This rather sudden change in a significant portion of our court’s composition is exactly the sort of situation that challenges so many of the values that (legal precedent) promotes concerning stability in the law, judicial restraint, the public’s faith in the judiciary, and the legitimacy of judicial review,” wrote Chief Justice Susan Christensen in a dissenting opinion.

Christensen was Reynolds’ first appointment to the Supreme Court. Following her were justices Christopher McDonald in 2019 and, in 2020, Dana Oxley and Matthew McDermott.

Former Gov. Tom Vilsack, a Democrat, appointed four justices between 1999 and 2007, including the retiring Appel. Iowa law requires justices to retire at age 72.

In 2019, the rules that govern the composition of the nominating commission were also altered by state lawmakers. Previously, the commission had eight lawyers elected by lawyers, eight appointees of the governor and the most-senior Supreme Court justice as the commission’s chairperson. The Republican-controlled Legislature decided to replace that leadership position with another governor’s appointee.

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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.

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