DES MOINES, Iowa – Justice David Wiggins become Acting Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court following the unexpected death of Chief Justice Mark Cady last Friday night.

The Iowa Code instructs the chief justice to appoint one of the other justices to act if the chief justice is absent or unable to act. Cady issued an order appointing Wiggins to that role back in 2016. Under the Iowa Code, Wiggins will serve as acting chief justice until the current vacancy on the court is filled and a chief justice is selected by the fully constituted court. The chief justice selected will serve until the next statutorily required vote is taken at the first meeting of the supreme court in 2021.

The chief justice oversees the administration of Iowa’s Judicial Branch.

Wiggins, 68, of West Des Moines was appointed to the Iowa Supreme Court in 2003 by former Governor Tom Vilsack.

Wiggins, born in Chicago, earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois in Chicago in 1973.  He graduated with honors from Drake University Law School in 1976.  While in law school he served as associate editor of the law review. 

Wiggins began his legal career as an associate in the West Des Moines law firm of Williams, Hart, Lavorato & Kirtley.  He became a partner in the firm in 1979. 

Prior to joining the court, Wiggins was active in numerous bar organizations including serving on the Board of Governors of the Iowa State Bar Association, and serving as president of the Iowa Trial Lawyers Association, senior counsel for the American College of Barristers, master emeritus of the C. Edwin Moore American Inn of Court, a founding sponsor of the Civil Justice Foundation, and an advocate for the American Board of Trial Advocates.  He also served as chairperson of the Judicial Qualifications Commission from 2000 until he joined the supreme court. He received the Meritorious Achievement Award from the Iowa Trial Lawyers Association in 1999.

Wiggins was targeted in his election retention in 2012 for his part in the Varnum decision in 2009 that allowed same-sex marriage in Iowa. This followed voters removing three Iowa Supreme Court justices in 2010. Wiggins was retained with only 54.6 percent of the vote.

In addition to supporting same-sex marriage, He ruled in the minority with the Iowa Supreme Court upheld Iowa’s collective bargaining reform this year. Wiggins also ruled in favor of allowing same-sex couples to have both of their names on their child’s birth certificate. Wiggins also ruled against a 72-hour waiting period for abortions. He also ruled with the majority saying that Iowans have a right to make a “wrongful birth” claim. He also ruled with the majority striking down Iowa’s webcam abortion ban.

Wiggins is married with three children and four grandchildren.  His current term expires December 31, 2020.

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