A new judge on the Iowa Court of Appeals suggests the commission which nominates people to be judges in Iowa should open more of its records to the public. Judge Mary Tabor was appointed to the Iowa Court of Appeals this year.
“My view is perhaps an addition of transparency is a good thing for the nominating process and I think one place might be to have these confidential questionnaires not be kept confidential,” Tabor says.
The questionnaire is completed by every person who applies for a judicial vacancy. The questionnaire asks the applicant to list their qualifications and to outline why they want to be a judge. Tabor says there was nothing she wrote on those parts of the application that she would have objected to making public.
“I think that that would be a modest change in the process, but I think it would give the public a little more insight into the people that are applying,” Tabor says.
The Judicial Nominating Commission soon will meet to come up with a slate of nominees for openings on the Iowa Supreme Court, and the governor will select new justices from that list. Three justices on the state’s highest court were voted off the bench in this November’s judicial retention elections.
“The high school senior voting for the first time or older Iowans voting at their retirement center, I think they have a much better idea now across the board of how we pick judges in Iowa than they did before this election season,” Tabor says. “So maybe that’s one positive take-away from what happened is that we do have a better-educated citizenry and that may be a far better thing as we move forward that people are aware of our merit selection process.”
Tabor made her comments today during a conference call for members of the Iowa State Bar Association. “I don’t think we should let the recent upheaval in the judicial retention elections discourage good candidates from applying. I think if you’re interested in being a member of the Iowa Judicial Branch, that you should go ahead and pursue that ambition,” Tabor said. “I think you should be very supportive of colleagues and friends who have that ambition…because I think now’s the key time to make sure our judiciary stays independent and that we have highly-qualified candidates that are willing to put themselves out there.”
Tabor applied to be a judge six times before she was selected.