Judicial Nomination Reform
After hearing from constituents and other experts, I have decided to support HSB 110. The current system used in Iowa to place judges and justices on the bench is a merit-based system commonly referred to as the “Missouri Plan.” Under this system, Iowa has 14 district court commissions and a state commission. These commissions select nominees to submit to the Governor to fill judicial vacancies. For the Supreme Court, 3 nominees are given to the Governor; for district court vacancies, 2 nominees are advanced. The Governor must select one of these nominees within 30 days of receiving it. If the Governor does not make the selection within 30 days, the Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court makes the selection.
Several states that have used the Missouri Plan are now debating changes. Tennessee has totally moved away from this plan, and even Missouri is considering changes. The legislation being considered in Iowa would give more voice to the people through their elected officials, regardless of political party.
Why is change necessary? In the current system, attorneys are electing other attorneys with no oversight or accountability to the people. It has also become clear that very few attorneys are participating in the process. In 2018, over 7,000 lawyer members of the bar were eligible to vote for commissioners. Only 18.45% of attorneys eligible to vote actually voted and participated in the process. This means that less than .05% of the people of Iowa, those being attorneys, had a voice in this part of the process.
The changes to the judicial nomination process being considered in HSB110 would result in greater transparency, greater accountability to the citizens of our state, improves the integrity of the system through a more public process, removes the potential of undue influence or pressure resulting from a Judge or Justice being Chair of a commission, all while maintaining a strong attorney presence and the merit system of selection. Our system works best when the power resides with the people, as envisioned by our Founders. HSB110 would return a measure of power to the people in the selection of judges and justices.
I hope you can join me in support of this bill for the various reasons above.