Iowa Supreme Court finalists McDermott, Chicchelly, and May, in their own words

After interviewing fifteen applicants, the State Judicial Nominating Commission on March 6 agreed on three nominees for the Iowa Supreme Court: Matthew McDermott, District Court Judge Mary Chicchelly, and Iowa Court of Appeals Judge David May. Governor Kim Reynolds will appoint one of them during the next few weeks.

To the credit of the commissioners, all three finalists are well-qualified to serve. Thanks to a law Republicans enacted in 2019, commission members appointed by either Reynolds or Governor Terry Branstad now outnumber elected attorneys, meaning they had the votes to send less-experienced but politically-connected loyalists to the governor. They did not.

I’ve enclosed below highlights from each finalist’s application and interview, along with some noteworthy comments by three candidates who didn’t make it onto the short list: Brenna Bird, Alan Ostergren, and Sam Langholz.

I felt confident in January that Reynolds would appoint McDermott, because of his past work for the Republican Party of Iowa and close ties to senior GOP officials. Knowing now that the governor’s own legal counsel Langholz has ambitions to serve on the Supreme Court, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Reynolds pick a different finalist. Langholz’s job involves helping the governor interview and select judges. He has incentive to steer her toward appointing a candidate who has presided over a District Court, to improve the odds of the State Judicial Nominating Commission selecting someone who lacks that experience next time. Reynolds will get at least one more appointment to the high court, because Supreme Court Justice Brent Appel will reach the mandatory retirement age in 2022.

MATTHEW McDERMOTT: “I SEEK THE CHALLENGE OF MEATY LEGAL ISSUES”

McDermott was a finalist for the last vacancy, but near the beginning of his March 6 interview, he told commissioners he understood this is a new round, with “no guarantees, and I’m here to earn the nomination again.” You can watch here:

He grew up in Carroll as the sixth of seven kids in a family that valued public service; his father served as a Carroll County supervisor later in life. “I’m here because I feel a call to service, and I believe I have the experience, ability, and integrity to contribute to this court.

McDermott’s written application (enclosed below as Appendix 1) describes his work over the last seventeen years as follows:

Over my career my practice has largely been divided between civil cases (approximately 70 percent), criminal cases (approximately 20 percent), and administrative and professional licensure matters (approximately 10 percent). As a percentage of practice by tribunal, while it varies considerably by year, I would estimate 60% state court, 30% federal court, and 10% administrative or arbitration forums. In the last ten years, I have tried approximately 25 cases or contested matters, including 5 jury trials, serving as lead counsel for my client in all but three or four. In the last ten years, I have participated in slightly more than 20 appeals in state and federal court, of which I was lead counsel in approximately two-thirds.

During his interview, McDermott emphasized his work representing indigent defendants in criminal cases. “Most criminal law practitioners that join the bench tend to be prosecutors, and I think that it’s important to have experience on the other side of those cases on the bench also.”

A few minutes later, he noted that when defending indigent criminal clients, “you frequently lose.” One lesson he learned early was the “immense challenge that you face when you have the government and all of its resources, all of its might, all of its power against a criminal defendant, frequently extremely poor, often young.” Even so, his client can win if he makes a better argument in court, which is an “amazing notion”: “Everyone has a fighting chance because we’re all equal under the law.”

Responding to a question from elected attorney Christine Conover, McDermott acknowledged that early in his career, he was eager to get into court and thought indigent defense would be an opportunity to “really dig in” and argue in front of judges and juries. Through those cases he became passionate about criminal practice.

McDermott also “routinely” represents lawyers in ethics cases. Some of his clients have been practicing for decades, and he said it is rewarding to be trusted in such cases, where people’s livelihoods are on the line. He later recalled receiving a phone call from Chief Justice Mark Cady, about a young lawyer who was having some ethical problems. The chief justice asked McDermott to reach out to him as a mentor.

As a general principle, McDermott said, “I seek tough cases, I seek the challenge of meaty legal issues.” That’s why he wants to be on the court that handles the “toughest legal questions.” He also strives to write about cases “in a simple, clear, and direct way.”

Of the cases McDermott has tried, the one best known to Bleeding Heartland readers is his work as lead counsel defending Iowa’s 2017 collective bargaining law. (Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller recused his office from that matter.) The Iowa Supreme Court upheld the law in two 4-3 decisions, discussed in detail here. It’s worth noting that if Justice Daryl Hecht had not been forced to retire in 2018 while suffering from melanoma, those rulings would likely have been 4-3 decisions to strike down the law.

McDermott told nominating commission members that he has worked for clients of all sorts. “I’ve represented the powerful and the powerless, and I have done my very best for all of them.” He has sued the state as well as defended the state.

Iowa’s judicial application asks for “three of the most significant matters in which you have participated” as an attorney or judge. The cases McDermott listed reflect the diversity of his practice. First, he noted his successful defense of the collective bargaining law.

Second, he discussed a case where he was a court-appointed lawyer for a defendant charged with possessing a firearm as a felon. “The district court denied Mr. Trogdon’s motion to suppress evidence, and on appeal I urged the Eighth Circuit to overturn the district court’s denial because the police lacked reasonable, articulable suspicion for the stop- and-frisk that lead to the discovery of the weapon and the associated finding of guilt.” Although McDermott lost that case, it “presented unique Fourth Amendment search-and-seizure issues involving the nature of a trespass giving rise to an individual’s detention by law enforcement.”

In the third significant legal matter, McDermott was lead counsel for “a minority shareholder in a closely held business in a shareholder oppression and breach of fiduciary duty action.” The Iowa Specialty Business Court resolved the case in his client’s favor, which was

the first instance of a minority shareholder prevailing in a shareholder oppression action in Iowa since the Iowa Supreme Court put in place the “reasonable expectations” standard in 2013. This case also presented directly to an Iowa court for the first time a question of whether a minority shareholder can maintain damages based on a reasonable expectation of continued at-will employment. That question became the subject of an article I co-authored in the Drake Law Review published in September 2019.

During his interview, McDermott argued, “Access to justice is a critical issue for our courts.” For that reason, he has taken a leadership role at Iowa Legal Aid. His application says of that work,

After several years serving on fundraising and advisory committees, I was appointed to the Iowa Legal Aid Board of Directors, where I’ve served on the Executive Committee and currently serve as Board President. I have been involved in almost all facets of the organization’s operation over time, and through my work have attempted to advance Iowa Legal Aid’s mission to ensure access to justice for all Iowans. I also had significant involvement in representation of clients through the Polk County Bar Association’s Latino Outreach Clinic. I provided advice at the clinics and took on many representations for clients that had ongoing litigation needs, including representation in court matters. On average, I would estimate I provide in excess of 100 hours of pro bono work each year.

During the Q&A period, McDermott added that every year, Iowa Legal Aid closes about 16,000 cases and has to turn away about 10,000 people seeking assistance, indicating “a significant unmet need.”

Commissioner John Gray, an attorney from Sioux City, pointed out that Supreme Court Justices Edward Mansfield and Christopher McDonald were once attorneys in the Belin McCormick law firm in Des Moines, where McDermott has spent most of his career. (Disclosure: the firm is named after my late father, David Belin, who passed away years before McDermott was hired.) Gray wondered, should we be concerned that Iowa may have three members of the high court who all worked for the same firm?

McDermott said, “our stories are all quite different.” Mansfield was raised in Massachusetts and practiced law in Arizona before joining the firm. McDonald grew up internationally and practiced at a different firm before spending three or four years at Belin McCormick. Then he served as in-house counsel for a corporation before becoming a judge. It’s been more than a decade since either of the current justices has worked at the firm.

In contrast, McDermott said, he is from rural Iowa and has been with the firm for seventeen years. “Everyone has to be evaluated on their own merits.” He also mentioned that he has had “the distinct pleasure and opportunity” to work with and learn from former Iowa Supreme Court Justice Mark McCormick, a senior partner.

Appointed commissioner Henry Bevel drew laughter when he observed, “I don’t know how you do what you do without being very competitive. I want to know why you want to referee.” McDermott said he loves what he has been doing for seventeen years. But thinking about his “highest, best use on this planet,” he believes “that I can do a lot of good” and “bring justice in this role” on the Supreme Court.

MARY CHICCHELLY: “I CAN FILL THIS VOID ON OUR COURT”

Chicchelly spoke confidently throughout her interview, which you can watch in full here:

Having applied for each of the last four Supreme Court vacancies, Chicchelly quickly got to the point of “why I am here once again.”

I continue to believe that the Iowa Supreme Court is in need of a judge with lengthy and significant District Court experience, who has managed heavy and varied dockets, and who has a track record of commitment to public service, and a strong work ethic, has excellence of character and action. I continue to believe that I can fill this void on our court.

Chicchelly was born and raised in Cedar Rapids and has lived there for most of her life, other than a brief stint in the Marine Corps (cut short by injury) and a summer internship on the staff of former U.S. Representative Tom Tauke.

Like McDermott, Chicchelly grew up in a large family. “Being one of seven kids shapes a person. And having parents who are dedicated to God, family, and community also does. My parents are my heroes.” She also told the commissioners, “As a middle child, I honed my dispute resolution skills at a very early age, unless I was involved in the dispute.”

Since the age of five, she had wanted to be a lawyer. She graduated from the University of Iowa in three years while rowing crew, working as a server in a restaurant, and being active in student government and the college Republicans.

Chicchelly said she has held leadership roles in everything she does. During her 20 years as an attorney in private practice, she took on hundreds of pro bono cases. That ended with her appointment to the District Court by Branstad in 2013.

Toward the end of her opening statement, Chicchelly returned to the topic of what she brings to the table:

And now with seven years of judicial court experience on one of the busiest judicial dockets in our state, I come before you with exceptional breadth and depth of judicial experience, and I assert to you that the Iowa Supreme Court is in need of the balance and perspective and practicality that a very experienced District Court judge can provide.

In fact, with seven years of District Court experience, I have more than double the District Court experience of the entire rest of the Iowa Supreme Court combined.

However, more than just length of tenure, it’s important to note that I have presided over hundreds of jury and non-jury trials, including complex civil litigation, corporate actions, medical malpractice cases, family law, custody, probate, criminal felony and misdemeanor cases, farming disputes, real estate, tax, contract matters, just to name a few. My dockets are always varied, and they rotate monthly.

She spends about half the year on the “very urban dockets” of Linn County and Johnson County, and spends about a third of each year on dockets in smaller counties in the sixth judicial district.

In addition to having “profound substantive knowledge and ability to research and write,” Chicchelly told commissioners, District Court judges know how to practice judicial discretion in matters ranging from evidentiary decisions to jury instructions and sentencing.

She touted her “track record of prompt and correct rulings”: “In my work, I get it right.” The best evidence is her extremely low reversal rate: “Currently I have only two partial reversals” in seven years on the bench. Chicchelly noted that rulings may be reversed due to many kinds of errors, such as “missing a surcharge in a sentencing order” or misapplying any legal standard.

Chicchelly concentrated on her judicial experience during her interview. Her written application (enclosed below as Appendix 2) also discusses her private practice at length. Excerpts:

01/97-05/04 Private practice in large metropolitan area. As I began my years at Seidl & Chicchelly, I continued to handle criminal matters (35%), prepared client tax returns (5%), handled personal injury claims (10%) and began to handle a larger percentage of family law cases (50%). This percentage also included a growing number of juvenile cases. Typical clients included young criminal defendants, individuals of all ages who required assistance with divorce proceedings or personal injury claims, and parents and children involved in juvenile court matters. My practice area percentages remained fairly steady until roughly 2004, at which point I took on a high profile criminal representation in conjunction with the Linn County Public Defender’s Office. That year, I was privately hired by a defendant’s family to represent him in the defense of a First Degree Murder charge. Most of my remaining practice was managed by my law partners as I immersed myself in this criminal defense. Approximately one-half of my practice was in criminal casework during that time frame.

05/04-03/13 Private practice in large metropolitan area. In the years following my involvement in the aforementioned murder case, my reputation as a litigator grew exponentially. Rather than focusing on criminal representation, however, I found that I enjoyed the challenge of family law and had reached a high level of experience and expertise in that area. Accordingly, my law practice became more focused on family law, collaborative family law and mediation. As of the end of 2012 and just before my appointment to the bench, family law constituted approximately 80% of my caseload. I also continued to write wills and trusts, handle guardianship and conservatorship matters and some personal injury cases. My typical clients were individuals seeking assistance with various family law matters, probate issues and personal injury claims. My final jury trial in April 2010 was a federal diversity case which I tried as co-counsel in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, resulting in a favorable verdict for our clients.

Where applicants were asked to describe at least three significant legal matters, Chicchelly listed five: the first degree murder and diversity cases mentioned above, a juvenile case in which she represented siblings of a murder victim, and two cases she presided over as a judge. One was a lengthy and complex murder case involving multiple jury trials. The other “did not proceed to trial” but involved constitutional issues related to the defendant’s confession and appropriate sentencing for a juvenile.

Commissioner Leon Spies, an elected attorney, asked Chicchelly to elaborate on her earlier comments about the Iowa Supreme Court. Does she see a shortage of “balanced practicality” on that bench?

I think that maybe, a good key to excellent decision writing is to focus on brevity, to focus on the issue. You know, certainly in the Supreme Court you’re going to need to provide some historical perspective, but I think sometimes if you loosen it up too much, you could lose the message in all of the excess, if that makes sense.

Spies: You’ve stated it very diplomatically.

Chicchelly: Well, that’s my job. [laughter in the room] But you know, honestly, that’s really kind of my lean, is that I think that the tighter that you make a ruling and you focus it on what the problem is at hand, then you have less of a chance of getting lost in the dicta somewhere, in terms of what should we, then, as a district court, be doing with that case law in application in later cases.

Appointed attorney Kathleen Law wanted to know the most important thing Chicchelly learned from private practice that she would take to the Supreme Court. She didn’t hesitate: empathy is the most important lesson any lawyer can learn. “These are real people with real problems,” and even if those may not seem important to someone else, it’s the “biggest thing going on in their lives.” As a judge, she remembers what it’s like to be an attorney and have clients.

DAVID MAY: AN ADVOCATE FOR “PROBLEM-SOLVING COURTS”

The last of fifteen candidates to interview on March 6, May joked that he enjoyed the chance to give “closing arguments.” Watch here:

May’s opening statement likened the three phases of his career to three stories of a building. First, his experience as a litigator, then as District Court judge appointed by Branstad in 2016, and finally serving on the Iowa Court of Appeals since May 2019.

Representing clients helps lawyers understand how court decisions impact clients, May said. He touched on seventeen years of litigation work in small and large firms, serving all sorts of clients. May’s written application (enclosed below as Appendix 3) noted that for his first three years in private practice, 99 percent of his cases were civil litigation. At the Bradshaw law firm from 2001 to 2016, his practice was roughly half civil litigation and half insurance coverage work, of which about 80 percent “involved matters in which arson or other fraud was suspected.”

For May, experience as a District Court judge is “invaluable” for being an appellate judge. During his time on the Court of Appeals, he’s written “dozens of opinions and voted on dozens more.” He summed up his record this way: “I consistently do my best to apply the law as it’s written to the facts and come to the right decision wherever the chips will fall,” which is what you want from a judge at any level and certainly from an Iowa Supreme Court justice. He is qualified to serve on the Supreme Court “from day one.”

The written application asks judges to list all cases in which their opinions have been reversed by a higher court. May has had three partial reversals and one full reversal in four years. (As mentioned above, Chicchelly has had only two partial reversals in seven years.) The full reversal was a 5-1 Iowa Supreme Court ruling in January of this year.

One of the partial reversals happened in the best-known case May presided over: former Department of Criminal Investigation agent Larry Hedlund’s whistleblower claim. Hedlund was fired in 2013 and alleged that he was terminated in retaliation for reporting that a sport-utility vehicle carrying Branstad and Reynolds (then governor and lieutenant governor) was traveling way over the speed limit. May dismissed all three parts of Hedlund’s lawsuit. The Iowa Supreme Court sent the case back to District Court last year. The justices unanimously found that a trial should proceed on Hedlund’s whistleblower claims.

Three Supreme Court justices would also have reversed May’s dismissal of Hedlund’s age discrimination claim. You can read the majority opinion and their special concurrence here.

The “significant legal matters” May listed on his application were one case in which he represented an insurance company seeking compensation and punitive damages against a policy-holder. In the second case, he represented Mercy Hospital in class action suits over billing. The third case involved pro bono work on behalf of an inmate at the state penitentiary in Fort Madison. Although that appeal in federal court was not successful, the client was grateful for the representation. May wrote that the case “changed my perspective on our corrections system” and “opened my eyes to the challenges faced by both corrections staff and by prisoners.”

While considering cases in the Court of Appeals, May often draws on his experience as a District Court judge. Spies asked whether he is more sympathetic to judges when attorneys filing appeals point to possible abuses of discretion.

May’s starting point is that the law often allows discretion, and “The judge who is on the scene is often in the best position to see and hear what is actually happening.” Whether it’s an evidence objection in the middle of trial or a sentencing decision later in the process, discretion is an important part of the system. “We just cannot correct all of those things on the appellate level, nor would we be good at it, just looking at cold transcripts.” At the same time, May acknowledged District Court judges do make mistakes. “We’re here to correct those when they’re shown to us.”

Elected attorney Janece Valentine asked May how he views the role of precedent (the idea that prior decisions are binding on the current case).

It depends on the context. If, for example, if a constitutional decision is clearly wrong, then it’s our constitutional obligation to change, to go in a different direction. And that would be a Supreme Court role, of course.

In my role as a District Court judge and as a Court of Appeals judge, we’re continuously bound by the Supreme Court’s rulings. And soo that’s been my experience in following those.

May distinguished between relatively recent precedents and common law rules that have been around for hundreds of years, which “are well established.” He’s “always open to persuasion” by counsel.

Conover noted that while May has presided over trial court and appeals, the Supreme Court is different because they hear more cases of first impression. Some lawyers complain that there are too many dissents coming out of the Iowa Supreme Court, and we should have a more “unified” court. Does May think it’s important to build consensus so there are more unanimous rulings?

May did run into a few issues of first impression as a District Court judge and on the Court of Appeals. As for the Supreme Court, justices must mix “collegiality and independence.” He wants them to “bring their independent points of view to every case” and supports “robust discussion.” His practice on the appeals court suggests that it’s better when judges agree, but he wants everyone to vote their conscience. “Sometimes there’s room for a dissent or a special concurrence,” and he’s written some of each. After those cases, it’s important for judges “to move on together” and not let disagreements over legal matters turn into a personal issue.

Elected attorney Jeff Goodman asked where May has lived, since the State Judicial Nominating Commission has sometimes considered geographical diversity when selecting finalists. May grew up in the small town of Kirskville, Missouri. After high school, he was educated in Des Moines, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Columbia, Missouri. Seventeen years ago, he settled in the small town of Polk City to raise a family.

Elected attorney Kristina Stanger wanted to hear about any particular case or matter that affected May and would shape how he approaches cases on the Supreme Court. “Countless” cases came to mind, May said, but he focused his answer on his work as a Polk County drug court judge.

He sentenced some 200 people on felony drug charges in District Court. He saw them once or twice. “We did the best we could to address their problems under the circumstances, but I think everybody left that courtroom probably thinking, ‘We didn’t make transformational change.’ And that’s a limitation of our system.”

In 2018, May became a judge in a drug court with only about 30 defendants. They come in every week, receive treatment, and must keep a job. They check in frequently with Department of Corrections staff. Not all defendants were ready for that level of supervision, and some dropped out of the program. But when you see people regularly for a year or two, “you’re able to see actual transformation” in people who are proud to be working, paying taxes, and living their lives. “it’s an extraordinarily moving thing, and I will carry my advocacy for drug court programs forward.”

May knows funding is “scarce” in Iowa’s judicial branch, but he supports continuing to experiment with and expand “problem-solving courts.”

BRENNA BIRD ON BEING SUED BY CHRIS GODFREY

Guthrie County Attorney Brenna Bird’s application for the Iowa Supreme Court aroused some concern in legal circles because of her past partisan political work and her role as Branstad’s legal counsel. John Gray mentioned former Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Chris Godfrey’s lawsuit; last year, a jury found that Branstad and Bird violated Godfrey’s constitutional rights. The appeal is pending before the Supreme Court, and Gray wondered “if that should be a concern of ours.”

Bird emphasized that if appointed to the Supreme Court, she would recuse herself from the Godfrey case or any matter in which she was involved as a county attorney. She wouldn’t comment on the nature of Godfrey’s lawsuit, but had this to say about the experience.

One thing I do want you to know that, as much as I certainly don’t like being sued–no one does, no one would look forward to that–it has been valuable to me as a person. it’s not a lesson that I would seek out, but it’s one that sought me out.

And having my name after the “v” certainly helps me understand more. It makes me a better lawyer. I think it makes me a better person. It makes me more empathetic.

And so that experience, although not always an easy one–people who serve in public office are sometimes sued, it’s not an easy one–it is one that has taught me some valuable lessons.

I think empathy is the word that I would use there, when understanding the legal system. It make it–it adds to my understanding when I’m prepping a witness for trial. It is a constant reminder, as I look over, and we’re waiting for a verdict to come in, and I can see the look on a criminal defendant’s face as they’re waiting to hear what their fate is.

It’s very real, and I appreciate the things that I have learned from that experience.

ALAN OSTERGREN ON THE FEDERALIST SOCIETY AND APPLYING FOR A LOWER COURT

State Judicial Nominating Commission members didn’t ask Ostergren about the problematic cases Bleeding Heartland discussed here. But Spies mentioned a committee of the federal judiciary’s recent advisory opinion encouraging federal judges to withdraw from membership in the conservative Federalist Society or the liberal American Constitution Society.

Ostergren’s on the steering committee of the Federalist Society in Iowa. Would he withdraw from that role if appointed to the Supreme Court, and has his membership informed his views on issues of constitutional significance?

Ostergren challenged how Spies characterized the advisory opinion. It “actually says that federal judges should not hold leadership positions in those organizations,” but doesn’t say they should not attend seminars or speeches. He noted that current justices occasionally participate in Iowa State Bar Association events. “I’m not going to do anything if I am serving on this court that would jeopardize my ability to be an independent justice of this court.”

Ostergren has applied for the last three Iowa Supreme Court vacancies. Appointed commissioner Helen Sinclair wanted to know, “Have you ever considered applying to the District Court?”

“I have done so in the past. I have applied,” Ostergren said. He’s at the point in his career where he’s more interested in serving on an appellate court. “Being a county attorney, I’ll be blunt, I think is a lot more exciting and interesting” than serving on a trial court, he explained.

SAM LANGHOLZ ON “THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM”

The most controversial Supreme Court applicant this round was Langholz, because of his role as Reynolds’ senior legal counsel. During his opening statement to the commission, Langholz promised that if appointed,

I would be steadfastly committed to the rule of law. I would be impartial and open-minded. And I would never forget that we’re deciding cases of real people who need a fair process. And these aren’t empty promises or just aspirational goals for me. You don’t have to take my word for it. If you want to see what sort of Supreme Court justice I will be, You only need to look at what sort of judge I was when I led the administrative hearings division for four years.

Administrative law judges “often heard compelling cases” from Iowans, but “no matter how compelling that story was, it was our duty to follow the law, even if we didn’t like where that took us as a result.”

During the Q&A, Sinclair brought up “the elephant in the room. And as you know, there’s been a groundswell of comment saying that your appointment would reduce the appointment to a political one, instead of a merit one. What do you have to say to that?”

I trust that this commission is going to do its job, that it’s going to evaluate all of the candidates based on their merit, based on the applications, based on the letters of recommendation, with respect to me, particularly those letters that came in from people who know me, who have worked with me.

And I trust that this commission is not going to make a political decision. That it’s going to pick three nominees that will be qualified to serve on the Iowa Supreme Court. And I trust that.

Conover followed up, saying the commission “has received dozens of letters expressing concern” that since Langholz currently works in the governor’s office, his appointment to the Iowa Supreme Court would “detract from the independence that our judicial branch needs. Is that a relevant consideration for this commission? Could you address that?”

Respectfully, I don’t think it is. I think your job is to consider the applicants that have been submitted, or that have put themselves forward to serve Iowans, to decide, you know, which of those applicants are the three best nominees to serve on the Supreme Court. And I don’t think it’s disqualifying to be currently serving in another role.

This is something, you know, that I thought about before deciding to apply. You know, it’s something that happens all around the country. You know, I found–and I’m sure it’s not an exhaustive list–at least sixteen examples just in the past ten years, of governors that have had current staff move to the judiciary. Some of those have been in states with commission systems like these, where the staff apply to the commission, the commission evaluates them, sends them as a nominee if they are qualified to serve. And in some cases, then, those individuals have gone on to serve in the Supreme Court. And it’s not been a problem in the other states.

I recognize that the role, you know, my role changes [if I’m appointed]. You know, I’m not here today as a representative of the governor’s office, in fact I’m on vacation right now. I would be taking a new judicial oath that I talked about, that is moving into an entirely different role, that’s required to be fair and impartial. I don’t–I recognize that.

I can understand why people who don’t know me, who have had a political operation, you know, ginning them up to be writing in to you might be concerned about that, but I’m confident that if I am fortunate enough to be nominated and appointed, my work will speak for itself that I abide by the judicial oath. I won’t be showing favor towards the governor or the state or any other party.

Langholz has not replied to my email requesting the list of sixteen people he referenced, who successfully applied for judicial positions while working on a governor’s staff.

I’m also seeking comment on whether he will help the governor interview the finalists and evaluate their applications. That would at minimum create the appearance of a conflict of interest.


Appendix 1: Application and writing samples from Matthew McDermott

Appendix 2: Application and writing samples from Mary Chicchelly

Appendix 3: Application and writing samples from David May

  • Exhaustive work!

    Just as Justice Cady opened the court to public scrutiny by hearing cases in courtrooms around the state, you have helped us all see how justices are selected. Yeoman’s work from one of Iowa’s best reporters. Thank you.

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