One of the nominees for an opening on the Iowa Court of Appeals was asked during a public interview with the Iowa Judicial Nominating Commission if she was upholding the religious vows of her marriage after she raised the issue of her husband’s out-of-state job.
Jeanie Kunkle Vaudt is the wife of David Vaudt, the Republican who served a decade as state auditor before resigning this past May to lead a national accounting board. Scott Bailey, vice president of the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators, is a member of the commission that interviewed Jeanie Vaudt.
“I wasn’t aware of the situation…but it does raise a question for me now that you mention that. Did you make covenant vows with your husband?” Bailey asked. Bailey then asked if seeking a job on the Iowa Court of Appeals while her husband worked out of state would “break” those vows.
Vaudt gave this reply: “My husband and I have always been very supportive of each other and he is 100 percent behind me in this endeavor and I have always been 100 percent behind him.”
Vaudt had raised the issue of her marriage during her opening statement to the commission.
“I don’t want anyone making any decisions about me based upon assumptions or presumptions that might be inaccurate,” she said. “You might have heard my spouse is now employed 1600 miles east of here in Norwalk, Connecticut and when you heard that, you also may have heard that I am staying here and you may have wondered to yourself during this process: ‘Why didn’t she go with him?'”
Vaudt — who described herself as a “devoted spouse” — told the commission: “I have what it takes to be a great judge…One of the primary reasons I am staying here is because my judicial aspirations are here…I am happy to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to ensure that I perform my duties in an exceptional manner.”
AUDIO of Vaudt’s opening statement and Bailey’s question, 7:45
Bailey told Radio Iowa late this afternoon he hadn’t planned to ask about Vaudt’s marriage until she brought it up.
“I was happy that she and her husband were unified on this and it wasn’t causing a disturbance to their marriage,” Bailey said. “…Jeanie is an excellent candidate that I am totally supportive of and her answer completely satisfied me. This had nothing to do with me asking an inappropriate question. It was a clarifying question.”
Bailey is one of seven Republicans Governor Branstad appointed to the commission after Christian conservatives led a 2010 campaign to oust three members of the Iowa Supreme Court. Bailey recently served on a jury and Bailey told Radio he’s disappointed with the “negative public perception” of the courts.
“The fact is we have the world’s best judiciary system and I’m very proud of it here in Iowa and I’m extremely proud of the candidates that we put forward, including Jeanie Vaudt, to the governor,” Bailey said. “He’s going to have a really hard time selecting among the top-notch candidates we put forward to him.”
Vaudt, who is 59 years old, is one of three nominees for an opening on the Iowa Court of Appeals. Sharon Greer, a 57-year-old attorney from Marshalltown and 38-year-old Christopher Lee McDonald of Des Moines, a district court judge, are the other two nominees.
Vaudt has been an assistant state attorney general since 1998. She worked at a Des Moines law firm a few years before that. After graduating from law school Vaudt worked as an assistant for an Iowa Supreme Court justice who later became chief justice. During her interview with the Judicial Nominating Commission, Vaudt described herself as an “Iowa farm girl who grew up, got married, moved to the big city, dreamed big dreams and who has made most of those dreams come true.”