A Linn County attorney and eight Iowa House Democrats are challenging the new law that altered the composition of the State Judicial Nominating Commission and the term of the Iowa Supreme Court chief justice.
Republican lawmakers approved the changes as an amendment to the “standings” budget bill on the final day of the 2019 legislative session. Governor Kim Reynolds signed the bill on May 8, giving herself and future governors nearly unchecked power to choose judges for Iowa’s Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.
The plaintiffs are not claiming the legislature lacked the power to change the commission’s membership through a statute. Although most of Iowa’s judicial selection system is spelled out in the state constitution, which takes years to amend, a loophole in Article V, Section 16 specified the manner of forming judicial nominating commissions only “Until July 4, 1973, and thereafter unless otherwise provided by law.”
Rather, the lawsuit filed in Polk County District Court on May 14 cites two constitutional violations related to the process by which the law passed and one violation related to the separation of powers.