Are changes coming to one branch of the Iowa government?
At Saint Ambrose University Saturday, legal experts debated over whether or not changes should be made to how we appoint Iowa Supreme Court judges through the retention process.
"I think the federal model is probably the best," says Ryan Koopmans, attorney.
Right now in Iowa, judges are appointed by the governor then put up for retention at the next election. At that point, voters decide whether or not to keep the Supreme Court judge for eight more years.
"Any judge would prefer to have lifetime tenure but there would be a tradeoff of some loss of accountability," says Thomas Waterman, justice for the Iowa Supreme Court. "The discipline of retention elections does help encourage members of our court to be transparent and responsive in the court business."
Some say mirroring the U.S. Supreme Court confirmation process is a better move.
"Judges that don't have to stand for retention elections don't have to figure in public input into their decisions," Koopmans adds. "They are truly independent. That's what we want from our judges; we want them to be able to decide cases free from political pressures of the day."
A prime example would be in 2010: when three justices found themselves out of work after the uproar over the ruling on gay marriage.
"We can always make things better here in Iowa," says Brenna Findley, legal counsel to Gov. Terry Branstad. "We know that it's important to have fair and impartial judges and to get the best people we can on the bench because it's important that our courts continue to function well and we have fair and impartial courts."
Any change to the process would first have to come from amending the Iowa constitution.
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