Iowa: Legislative subcommittee moved to overhaul state’s judicial selection system, give governor and legislature power over nominating commissions

A plan to overhaul Iowa’s merit/commission system for the selection of judges cleared its first legislative hurdle this week.

Presently, Iowa’s merit selection commissions are made up of

  • members of the bar “elected by the resident members of the bar” of the state, judicial district, or county
  • non-lawyers appointed by the governor (subject to senate confirmation for the State Nominating Commission) or the local Board of Supervisors
  • a chair who is a judge

HSB 110 and its Senate counterpart SSB 1101 would end the role of the bar and remove the judge as chair. Instead, the governor would effectively maintain his/her picks (but be required to name lawyers among those picks). The remaining seats would go to legislative leaders: speaker of the house, house minority leader, senate majority leader, and senate minority leader.

This is just the latest in a series of bills introduced in the last several years to dilute our outright eliminate the role of the state bar/members of the bar in judicial selection in the state and transfer those seats to the governor and/or legislature (see this from the 2017 iterations).

HSB 110 cleared a House Judiciary Committee on February 6. SSB 1101 remains in subcommittee