Gov. Kim Reynolds appoints Judge David May to Iowa Supreme Court

By: - July 27, 2022 2:29 pm

Iowa Court of Appeals Judge David May spoke at the Iowa State Capitol July 27, 2022, following his appointment to the Iowa Supreme Court by Gov. Kim Reynolds. (Photo by Robin Opsahl/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Gov. Kim Reynolds appointed Iowa Court of Appeals Judge David May to the Iowa Supreme Court Wednesday, her fifth appointment to the court.

The seven-member court is now staffed entirely by justices appointed by Republican governors. The two justices who were not appointed by Reynolds were appointed by her predecessor, Gov. Terry Branstad. May replaced Justice Brent Appel, the final justice who was appointed by a Democrat, Gov. Tom Vilsack.

Reynolds appointed May to serve as a Court of Appeals judge in 2019. He also served as a district judge in Iowa’s Fifth Judicial District starting in 2016, and worked at Bradshaw, Fowler, Proctor & Fairgrave, a Des Moines firm, for 14 years.

May said Wednesday he was excited to begin work at the Iowa Supreme Court.

“I know the work will involve new challenges, certainly a different kind of case mix,” he said during a news conference. “But whether you’re at the district court, the court of appeals or the Supreme Court, the basic principles of judging remain the same. Judges don’t exercise the powers of the executive or the legislature. We have a different job.”

May was one of three nominees picked by the State Judicial Nominating Commission to fill the opening. Alan Heavens, a district court judge and William J. Miller, an attorney with the law firm of Dorsey & Whitney, were the other two finalists sent to Reynolds for the appointment decision.

Reynolds said she selected May to fill the state Supreme Court opening after hearing from him and those who know him.

“At every point in this decision, Judge May of the Iowa Court of Appeals stood out, for his experience, his approach to interpretation and his commitment to judicial restraint,” Reynolds said in a news conference Wednesday.

May was also a finalist to become a state Supreme Court justice in 2020, when former Chief Justice David Wiggins retired. Justice Matthew McDermott was ultimately appointed.

Appel officially retired earlier this July at age 72, the state mandatory retirement age for justices.

One of Appel’s final decisions was a dissenting vote on the court’s ruling that Iowa’s constitution did not hold a right to abortion.

In his opinion on the case, an appeal by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland of Iowa’s 24-hour waiting period for patients seeking an abortion, he argued the court’s decision on legal protections for abortion were a misinterpretation of the state constitution. That misinterpretation puts women in Iowa at risk, he said.

“This jurisprudence of doubt will plainly impact many women and the men who support them,” Appel wrote.

In the majority opinion, Iowa Supreme Court Justice Edward Mansfield wrote that the court’s previous decision was judicial overreach.

May said the Supreme Court’s role was to interpret laws, not to make decisions independent of the governor or Legislature.

“Our job is to decide legal disputes,” he said. “… We decide those cases based on the law as it is written and consistent with our oath to support the Constitution of the United States, to support the Constitution of the State of Iowa, and without fear or affection or hope of reward, or other personal concerns.”

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. Robin has experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald, in addition to working on multimedia projects, newsletters and visualizations. They were a political reporter for the Des Moines Register covering the Iowa caucuses leading up to the 2020 presidential election, assisting with the Register's Iowa Poll, and reporting on Iowa's 4th District elections.