(Des Moines, Iowa) Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds appointed Judge Susan Christensen to the Iowa Supreme Court on Wednesday afternoon. This is her first Supreme Court appointment. Christensen will replace Justice Bruce Zager who announced his retirement in May.
Reynolds made her announcement in the Governor’s formal office at the State Capitol building with Christensen’s family in attendance.
“Iowans need judges who are smart, thoughtful, and hard-working. We need judges who understand the proper role of the courts within our government. Judges who will apply the law and not make it. Judges who will decide cases based upon the text of our statutes and constitution, not their personal policy preferences,” Reynolds said while making her announcement.
Reynolds had to choose between three candidates nominated by the State Judicial Nominating Commission. They announced their recommendations on July 10th, and Reynolds had 30 days by law to make her decision. She said each nominee provided extensive written materials, and she heard recommendations from dozens of Iowans. She personally interviewed each candidate last Friday.
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.
Reynolds noted that she went to law school later in life and started her professional career as a legal secretary while supporting her family and attending school.
The Governor noted that Iowans spoke favorably about her experience in the courtroom that she was prepared and passionate, and was known for pursuing excellence. One person told the Governor that Christensen was “more than just a sharp legal mind,” but also “has an incredible heart.”
“I believe that Judge Christensen will bring that heart and practical perspective to the Supreme Court. She understands how the Supreme Court’s decisions affect Iowans every day in district courts across the state,” Reynolds said.
Christensen will be the only justice serving on the Iowa Supreme Court who is from outside one of the state’s metro areas. She is the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court since Justice Marsha Ternus was ousted from the Supreme Court by Iowa voters in 2010 in reaction the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage in 2009.
Christensen said that she was honored and humbled to be appointed to the Supreme Court by Iowa’s first female governor. After thanking the Governor, the state nominating commission, her family, friends, and colleagues she said to the Governor, “You can count on me to support the Constitution and faithfully and impartially discharge my duties to the best of my ability.”
Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady welcomed Christensen.
“I am very pleased to welcome our new colleague, Judge Susan Christensen, to the supreme court. She is extremely well qualified and is a fine jurist. I look forward to serving with her and to having her vision and experience become a part of our state’s highest court. I want to thank the members of the Judicial Nominating Commission for nominating three outstanding candidates and Governor Reynolds for appointing Judge Christensen to the Iowa Supreme Court,” he said in a released statement.
Iowa Speaker of the House Linda Upmeyer (R-Clear Lake) said she trusts Reynolds’ judgment in selecting Christensen.
“Appointing Supreme Court justices is one of the most important responsibilities of the Executive Branch. It is critical that we have strong leaders like Governor Reynolds who will appoint justices to our courts that interpret the Constitution the way it is written,” she said in a statement. “I trust Governor Reynolds’ judgment and leadership and want to thank her for the work and research she put in to make the best selection for Iowans.”
Listen to Reynolds announcement below:
You can read her application to the state nominating commission here:
Watch her interview before the state nominating commission here: