Iowa Supreme Court Justice Mansfield on Trump's expanded list for SCOTUS

Iowa Supreme Court Justice Edward Mansfield is among ten new names on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s list of possible U.S. Supreme Court appointees, multiple journalists reported today.

Former Governor Chet Culver appointed Mansfield to the Iowa Court of Appeals in 2009. He was a workhorse on that bench, writing some 200 opinions in less than two years. Since Governor Terry Branstad named him to the Iowa Supreme Court in February 2011, Mansfield has been one of the court’s most prolific opinion writers. He is part of a conservative bloc of justices including the other two Branstad most recently appointed.

Mansfield’s judicial philosophy would appeal to many conservatives. He rarely joins what might be called “activist” decisions to overturn state law, administrative rule, or executive body determinations. In this year’s biggest case, Mansfield was part of a 4-3 majority upholding Iowa’s broad ban on voting by people with felony convictions. He has not joined various majority opinions related to juvenile sentencing, including one this year that held “juvenile offenders may not be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole” under Iowa’s Constitution. He dissented from a 2014 ruling that allowed a lawsuit against top Branstad administration officials to proceed.

Social conservatives might be encouraged by the fact that three years ago, Mansfield hinted in a one-paragraph concurrence that he does not agree with the legal reasoning underpinning the Iowa Supreme Court’s 2009 Varnum v Brien decision on marriage equality. However, he has never clarified whether he would have upheld Iowa’s Defense of Marriage Act or struck it down on different grounds.

The biggest red flag about Mansfield from a conservative perspective would probably be his decision to join last year’s unanimous ruling to strike down Iowa’s ban on telemedicine for abortion services. When the State Judicial Nominating Commission put Mansfield on the short list for the Iowa Supreme Court in early 2011, some conservatives grumbled that the judge’s wife was an active supporter of Planned Parenthood. Though the telemed abortion decision was grounded in the law and medical facts, critics may view Mansfield as untrustworthy on one of their key priorities for the U.S. Supreme Court: overturning Roe v Wade. I am not aware of Mansfield expressing any public opinion on that landmark 1973 abortion rights ruling.

One other Iowan is on Trump’s long list for the Supreme Court. Judge Steven Colloton of Des Moines, who serves on the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, was one of eleven names the Trump campaign released soon after locking up the GOP nomination. I enclose below more background on Colloton.

From Colloton’s official bio:

Born 1963 in Iowa City, IA

Federal Judicial Service:
Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
Nominated by George W. Bush on February 12, 2003, to a seat vacated by David R. Hansen. Confirmed by the Senate on September 4, 2003, and received commission on September 10, 2003.

Princeton University, A.B., 1985
Yale Law School, J.D., 1988

Professional Career:
Law clerk, Hon. Laurence H. Silberman, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, 1988-1989
Law clerk, Hon. William H. Rehnquist, Supreme Court of the United States, 1989-1990
Special assistant to the assistant attorney general, Office of Legal Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice, 1990-1991
Assistant U.S. attorney, Northern District of Iowa, 1991-1999
Associate independent counsel, Whitewater investigation, 1995-1996
Private practice, Iowa, 1999-2001
Adjunct lecturer, University of Iowa College of Law, 2000
U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, 2001-2003

Abhiran Karrapur profiled Colloton for the Daily Princetonian in May.

According to Ryan Koopmans, an attorney who once clerked for Judge Colloton on the Eighth Circuit, most of the cases Colloton deals with are federal criminal cases.

“He’s dedicated to the rule of law, and he brings that dedication to every case — whether it’s a technical statutory matter or a politically sensitive constitutional question,” Koopmans said.

Colloton has authored numerous decisions during his 13 years on the court, most notably siding with religious institutions that refused to provide contraception coverage mandated by the Affordable Care Act. […]

Colloton graduated from West High School in Iowa City, and attended [Princeton] University from 1981 to 1985. He graduated with a degree from the Wilson School, where he wrote his senior thesis, “State All-Payer Systems and Intergovernmental Relations in Health Care Cost Control.”

He then attended Yale Law School. While an editor of the Yale Law Journal, Colloton authored a paper questioning the legal grounds of Sally Frank’s lawsuit against single-gender eating clubs [at Princeton].

Ian Millhiser wrote of Colloton at Think Progress,

Judge Steven Colloton sits on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. He clerked for Chief Justice William Rehnquist and was appointed by President George W. Bush. Colloton also worked as an associate independent counsel under Clinton inquisitor Kenneth Starr prior to becoming a judge.

Among other things, Colloton’s has an unusually well defined record on reproductive rights — and that record suggests that he is a reliable conservative. In 2008, the Eighth Circuit heard Planned Parenthood v. Rounds, a challenge to a South Dakota law that required abortion providers to tell their patients that abortions terminate “an existing relationship” with an “unborn human being” and that abortions lead to an increased risk of suicide. They don’t. Nevertheless, Colloton joined an opinion which reinstated the law after a panel of his court ordered it halted.

Additionally, the Eighth Circuit is the only federal appeals court to strike down the Obama administration rules governing access to birth control that were recently before the Supreme Court in Zubik v. Burwell. Colloton joined that opinion as well.

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