Lieutenant Governor-elect Kim Reynolds and Governor-elect Terry Branstad.

The former governor and the soon-to-be-former governor could soon clash over the prospect of three vacancies on the Iowa Supreme Court.  Iowa voters kicked three of the justices off the court in Tuesday’s voting.

The process of appointing new justices starts with a Judicial Nominating Commission and ends with the state’s governor choosing one of the commission’s three nominees. Governor-elect Terry Branstad says the current governor, Chet Culver, should leave it to him to appoint the new justices.

“I think it would be inappropriate to have a governor that was just rejected by the voters try to rush through appointments to a court when the court was just rejected as well. I think we need to really sit down and think this thing through in a really careful way,” Branstad says. “But really my focus is on jobs. That’s why the people of Iowa elected me as governor and that’s where I’m going to put my focus in the days ahead.”

Culver is set to leave office in mid-January when Branstad will be sworn in for a fifth term as governor.  Culver issued a written statement this afternoon about the issue, saying only that he would review the matter “carefully” and act as both Democratic and Republican governors of the past have when there have been “multiple vacancies” on the state’s appellate courts.

Branstad held a news conference at about midnight, and a reporter asked if Branstad would meet with Culver to discuss the matter.  “I think it would be inappropriate to do anything that is hasty or political in this situation,” Branstad replied. “I think there needs to be some time to think this through very, very carefully.” 

As a result of Tuesday’s voting, the three justices will leave the court until the end of the year. After January 1, the four remaining justices will have to decide whether to issue rulings on cases that have already been heard by all seven-members of the court, or whether those cases should be reargued. The four remaining justices must also choose a new chief justice among themselves, as Chief Justice Marsha Ternus was voted off the court.