Iowa Supreme Court Building Photo credit: Ctjf83 via Wikimedia Commons (CC-By-SA 3.0)
Iowa Supreme Court Building
Photo credit: Ctjf83 via Wikimedia Commons (CC-By-SA 3.0)

Iowa Supreme Court Justice Bruce Zager announced his retirement in May creating the first vacancy on the Iowa Supreme Court since 2011. This vacancy provides Governor Kim Reynolds first opportunity to make an appointment to the Iowa Supreme Court. Out of 21 applicants interviewed on Monday and Tuesday, the state judicial nominating commission provided Reynolds with there candidates, all women, to decide who she will appoint to replace Zager.

Susan Christensen

Christensen, age 56, is from Harlan, Iowa and is currently a district court judge in Iowa’s Fourth Judicial District. She is a graduate of Judson College in Elgin, IL with a B.A. in psychology. She earned her J.D from Creighton University School of Law.

She was first appointed as District Associate Judge in 2007 by Governor Chet Culver. In 2015, she was appointed as District Court Judge by Governor Terry Branstad.

Christensen was in private practice in Harlan with Larson, Childs, Hall and Christensen from 1991 to 2003 and the Law Offices of Susan Larson Christensen from 2003 to 2007. Her practice focused on family law. She also served as Assistant County Attorney in Shelby County from 1991 to 2007, Harrison County from 1996 to 2007 and Crawford County in 2007. She is a member of the Children’s Justice State Council and served on the Supreme Court’s Family Law Pro Se Forms Committee, Child Support Guidelines Review Committee, and Parents Representation Standards Committee. Most of her litigation experience has been in state court.

You can read her application here:

Watch her interview before the state nominating commission here:

Terri Combs

Combs, age 61, lives in West Des Moines and is currently an attorney/partner with Faegre Baker Daniels, LLP.  She is a graduate of Missouri State University and Georgetown University Law Center.

After graduation, she clerked for Judge Myron H. Bright, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. She later was an associate attorney for Seyfarth Shaw, Fairweather & Geraldson and then Baer Marks & Upham in New York City. She later became a partner at Baer Marks & Upham before moving to Iowa to be a partner at her current law firm.

Her current practice is primarily in financial services litigation for clients in the banking, insurance, and financial services sectors, as well as litigation involving mergers and acquisitions. While in New York City her primary practice consisted of securities litigation. Most of her litigation experience has been in federal court.

Combs is currently a member of Central Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in Des Moines.

Read her application below:

Watch her interview before the state nominating commission below:

Kellyann Lekar

Lekar, age 50, is from Waterloo and currently serves as the Chief District Court Judge in Iowa’s First Judicial District (1B). She graduated with a B.S. in Psychology from Iowa State University and graduated with a J.D. from the University of Iowa College of Law.

Before serving on the bench, Lekar worked as an associate attorney for two law firms in Waterloo – Clark, Butler, Walsh, & Hamann, as well as, Randall, Nelson, and Hawbaker. She joined Roberts, Stevens and Lakar as a partner. Her litigation experience has almost entirely been in state court.

She was appointed as a District Court Judge in 2005 by Governor Tom Vilsack. She was appointed Chief District Court Judge by 2012 by Governor Terry Branstad.

Lekar serves on the Board of Directors of the Iowa Judges Association, American Bar Association, Courts and Community Committee of Iowa Judges Association, and the Iowa State Bar Association Jury Instructions Committee.

She is a parishioner at St. Edwards Catholic Church in Waterloo.

Read her application below:

Watch her interview with the state nomination committee below:

Missouri Plan

Iowa implements the “Missouri Plan,” a merit-based judicial selection process that passed as a constitutional amendment in 1962.

In the case of an Iowa Supreme Court vacancy it means that the Governor can not choose just any nominee to fill a court vacancy, she can only choose from a list of three provided by the state nominating commission.

The Iowa Constitution (Article V, Section 15) states that the Governor then has 30 days to make an appointment from that list and if she fails to do that then the Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court will make the appointment. Under the “Missouri Plan” the Iowa Senate does not advise and consent. Any judicial appointment made by the Governor in this process goes directly to the bench (or in this particular case will start in September when Zager’s retirement takes effect). A Supreme Court Justice’s term lasts eight years, and then the voters of Iowa can decide whether or not to retain them. In 2010, three Iowa Supreme Court justices lost their retention vote following the Court’s Varnum decision that legalized same-sex marriage in the state.

One half of the state nominating commission is appointed by the Governor and subject to confirmation by the Iowa Senate. They serve six-year terms. The other half of the commission are attornies elected by resident members of the Iowa State Bar Association. The most senior member of the Iowa Supreme Court, other than the Chief Justice, is also a member of the commission and chairs the commission. In this case, Justice David Wiggins of Des Moines chaired the commission.

One of the chief complaints about this process is that it is largely controlled by the Iowa State Bar Association who are unaccountable to the Governor or the people of Iowa.

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