Where are they now? Marsha Ternus edition

Catching up on news from last week, former Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus will serve as director of the new Tom Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement at Drake University in Des Moines. The Harkin Institute was originally established at Iowa State University, the senator’s alma mater, but that arrangement fell apart earlier this year. Harkin confirmed in June that he planned to donate his papers to Drake.

In one of the most disappointing election results of my lifetime, a majority of Iowans voted against retaining Ternus and two of her fellow Supreme Court justices in November 2010. She had served on the court for 17 years, the last four as chief justice. Ternus had a “major positive impact” on the justice system during her tenure. Governor Terry Branstad appointed Ternus to the high court but said nothing in her defense as social conservatives trashed her alleged “activism” during the anti-retention campaign.

After the jump I’ve posted Drake University’s announcement of the Ternus appointment as well as her official bio.  

Press release of August 1:

Former Iowa chief justice named head of public policy institute at Drake University

August 1, 2013

Marsha Ternus, former chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court, has accepted an appointment as director of the Tom Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement at Drake University.

Ternus, who graduated with honors from Drake Law School in 1977, was appointed to the Iowa Supreme Court in 1993 by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and served on the court until December 31, 2010. She will take the reins of the Harkin Institute, a nonpartisan center designed to serve as a hub for public policy research and programming, on August 19.

University officials announced in June that the Institute would support research, collaboration, and education for Drake faculty members, students, and scholars from around the country. It will also provide access to public policy-related programming to the community.

Ternus’ name quickly rose to the top of a list of influential candidates to lead the Institute, due in large part to the integrity, wisdom and balance that she exhibited on the state’s highest court, her passionate enthusiasm for the possibilities of the Harkin Institute and her long-term commitment to Drake.

“Justice Ternus’ efforts on the Iowa Supreme Court reflect a deep commitment to fairness, access, and transparency-principles that form the heart of the Harkin Institute,” said Drake University President David Maxwell.

During her seventeen years on the court, Justice Ternus worked to improve the administration of justice in addition to her adjudicative responsibilities. Under her leadership the court took steps to persuade Iowa lawyers to provide more pro bono services to persons who could not afford an attorney.

Ternus served as the judicial branch representative on the IOWAccess Advisory Council, which was instrumental in encouraging and guiding e-government projects. She also led efforts to implement an electronic document management system in the courts that will result in a paperless court system.

“From the very beginning, as we explored the potential of the Harkin Institute at Drake University, Justice Ternus has had tremendous enthusiasm for and insight into the role that the Harkin Institute can play on campus in serving our students, faculty and staff, the City of Des Moines and the State of Iowa, and the national policy community,” Maxwell said. “She brings vision, experience and an articulate and passionate voice to this leadership role, and we are indeed fortunate that she has agreed to help achieve our aspiration to make the Harkin Institute a major locus of the national public policy discourse.”

Justice Ternus’ efforts on the court complement decades of work by Sen. Harkin, whose 40 years of service in the U.S. Congress worked to advance human rights and access initiatives related to:

• The Americans with Disabilities Act

• Prevention of chronic disease, healthcare access, and reform

• Access to and improvement of education

• Federal farm policy

• Childhood nutrition, food access, and hunger prevention

• Labor issues; and

• Human rights and international development

Sen. Harkin said that Ternus brings a valuable perspective gleaned as an Iowa native, the first female chief justice of Iowa’s highest court, and a fair and compassionate member of the judiciary.

“Marsha Ternus focused her judicial career on improving oversight for children within the court system, served on the Board of Iowa Legal Aid, and continuously upheld the freedoms and security guaranteed to all citizens under the Iowa Constitution,” Harkin said. “Marsha is an inspiration and a pillar of the community. I commend Drake for naming her to this position and I look forward to the advancements the Institute will make under her leadership.”

Ternus currently serves as a member of the Drake University Board of Trustees and has long been an active member of the Drake community. She was a member of and served as president of the Law School’s Board of Councilors, has served on myriad task forces for the Law School, and delivered the school’s commencement address to Juris Doctor recipients in 2007.

“I am delighted to have the opportunity to work with the Drake community to provide meaningful research and educational opportunities for the students and faculty regarding the development and impact of public policy,” Ternus said. “I also look forward to facilitating student and citizen involvement in the examination of public policy issues, encouraging civil debate and promoting discussion of divergent perspectives and opinions.”

University officials announced the creation of the Harkin Institute earlier this summer in connection with Sen. Harkin’s intention to donate his historical papers and materials to Drake. The papers will be housed in the newly created Drake University Archives in Cowles Library and will be made available for research purposes.

The Institute will have a physical home on Drake’s campus; planning for that location is underway.

Official bio of Marsha Ternus:

Background and Education. Marsha Ternus is a native of Iowa, growing up on a farm in northern Benton County.  She received her bachelor’s degree with honors and high distinction, Phi Beta Kappa, from the University of Iowa in 1972.  She earned her law degree with honors, Order of the Coif, from Drake University Law School in 1977.  While at Drake, Ms. Ternus served as editor-in-chief of the Drake Law Review.  She has received honorary degrees from Iowa Wesleyan College (2005), Simpson College (2010), and Coe College (2011).  She is admitted to practice law in the State of Iowa (1977) and the State of Arizona (1984, inactive status).

Private Law Practice. After law school, Ms. Ternus worked for sixteen years in the private practice of law in Des Moines, with a primary emphasis on civil litigation and insurance law.  While in private practice, she served as president of the Polk County Bar Association, on the Board of Governors of the Iowa State Bar Association, on the Iowa Jury Instructions Committee, and on the Board of Directors of the Polk County Legal Aid Society.  Ms. Ternus also served as president of the Board of Counselors of Drake University Law School and on the Drake Law School Endowment Board of Directors.  She was a member of the Board of Directors of the Central Iowa Chapter of the American Red Cross for several years and was a participant in the 1983-1984 Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute.

Iowa Supreme Court. Ms. Ternus was appointed to the Iowa Supreme Court in 1993 by Governor Terry Branstad.  The members of the court selected her as chief justice in 2006.  She was the first woman to serve as chief justice of Iowa’s highest court.  Her term on the court expired on December 31, 2010.

During her seventeen years on the court, Justice Ternus worked on a number of court initiatives and other efforts to improve the administration of justice in addition to her adjudicative responsibilities.  She served as the judicial branch representative on the IOWAccess Advisory Council, which was instrumental in encouraging and guiding e-government projects.  She also led efforts to implement an electronic document management system in the courts that will result in a paperless court system.  Justice Ternus served on the judicial team that oversaw the design, development and construction of the Judicial Branch Building.  She was also a member of the steering committee of the Iowa Supreme Court Commission on Planning for the 21st Century and served as co-chair of the commission’s administration team.

During her time as chief justice, Chief Justice Ternus encouraged court efforts to improve access to justice.  In collaboration with Iowa Legal Aid, the court took steps to persuade Iowa lawyers to provide more pro bono services to persons who could not afford an attorney.  The court also adopted rules to facilitate lawyers in providing unbundled legal services and organized a task force to study civil justice reform.

As chief justice, Chief Justice Ternus made the improvement of court oversight of child welfare cases a priority for the Iowa Judicial Branch.  To this end, she led an effort to form and then chaired the State Children’s Justice Council, which consists of representatives of the judicial branch, state agencies and private entities involved in the child welfare system.  The council works collaboratively to institute reforms and improvements in the Iowa courts’ processing of child welfare cases to minimize the time children spend in the foster care system. Chief Justice Ternus also served on the planning committee that organized a national summit on the protection of children in 2009.

Chief Justice Ternus served on the Board of Directors of the Conference of Chief Justices and was a member of the Conference’s Courts, Children and Families Committee.  In addition, she chaired the Conference’s Court Management Committee and its Resolutions Committee.  In 2009, United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts appointed Chief Justice Ternus to the Judicial Conference Committee on Federal-State Jurisdiction, where she was one of only four state supreme court justices serving on the committee.  During her time on the court, she also served on the Multi-State Performance Test Policy Committee of the National Conference of Bar Examiners and chaired the Law School Task Force of the Drake University National Commission II.  In 1996, she received the Drake University Law School Outstanding Alumnus Award.

Recent Professional Endeavors. Ms. Ternus currently practices law in Des Moines, with a focus on appellate and trial case consulting and arbitration.  She has served as an expert on various matters, including issues of Iowa law, legal ethics, and insurance coverage and bad faith.

Ms. Ternus serves as the Executive Director of The Harkin Institute of Public Policy and Citizen Engagement at Drake University, a part-time position.  The Institute facilitates meaningful research and educational opportunities for students and faculty regarding the development and impact of public policy, as well as facilitating citizen involvement in the examination of public policy issues, encouraging civil debate and promoting discussion of divergent perspectives and opinions.

Ms. Ternus participates in the C. Edwin Moore Inn of the American Inns of Court.  Until her appointment as director of The Harkin Institute, she served on the Drake University Board of Trustees (2010-2013).  Ms. Ternus recently completed her service on the selection committee for the Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize (2012-2013) and on the the American Bar Association’s Bar Admissions Committee (2010-2012).

In May of 2012, Ms. Ternus and two of her former colleagues on the court received the 2012 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.  She has also been honored with the 2011 Outstanding Contribution to the Well-Being of Children & Youth Award from Youth & Shelter Services, Inc. and the 2011 Louise Noun Civil Liberties Award from the Iowa ACLU.  In 2011, Ms. Ternus was recognized with the first annual award for outstanding contributions to the welfare of children given by the Iowa Children’s Justice Initiative.

Ms. Ternus is a frequent lecturer on various subjects, including judicial independence, judicial selection and retention, the politicization of the judiciary, and restorative justice in the criminal justice system.  Her article, Do Americans Still Value an Independent Judiciary?, appeared in the 2011 edition of The Book of the States, a publication of The Council of State Governments.  She recently taught a short course on Restorative Justice at Grinnell College in the spring 2013 semester.

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