State Judicial Building

Iowa’s governor appoints the judges who preside in Iowa courtrooms, but judges as well as the justices on the Iowa Supreme Court periodically face what are called “retention” elections.

Iowa judges are not elected. Instead, a Judicial Nominating Commission interviews applicants. The commission submits three candidates to the governor for each opening and the governor makes the final call on which of the three get the job. The newly-appointed judge or justice faces a retention election after serving on the bench for at least a year, then every eight years after that.

Three members of the Iowa Court of Appeals are up for retention votes this year, along with 63 district court judges. Find a biography for each judge on the ballot and how each judge has been rated by the Iowa State Bar Association here.

It is extremely rare for judges to be voted off the bench. However, in 2010 three Iowa Supreme Court Justices lost their retention elections after joining in the court’s 2009 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage. In 2016, the justice who wrote that opinion as well as two other members of the Iowa Supreme Court who had joined the unanimous ruling on same-sex marriage won their retention elections.