Chief Justice Mark Cady.

The Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court is staying out of the legal fight on the appointment of a district judge.

A lawyer is questioning whether Governor Kim Reynolds appointed Jason Besler to the district court in the Sixth Judicial District in the required 30 days after the nominating commission sent her a list of nominees. Reynolds says she told her chief of staff Besler was her choice — but didn’t have time to call Besler because she was traveling to view storm damage.

Iowa law says the Chief Justice can appoint a judge if the governor fails to do so within the 30 days.  The Iowa Judicial Branch sent out a statement today from Chief Justice Mark Cady.  The statement says:

With regard to the appointment of Judge Besler, the Governor’s Office told Chief Justice Cady that Governor Reynolds properly exercised her constitutional authority to make the appointment in a timely manner. This determination by the governor deserves respect unless resolved differently through the legal process established to resolve disputes. Under the constitution, only one person can exercise the appointment authority at a time. Additionally, the constitution does not give the chief justice any additional authority to “confirm” or “ratify” a judicial appointment made by a governor. The chief justice only has the power to “make the appointment” if the governor fails to do so.

Chief Justice Cady finds himself in a difficult position, as is Jason Besler and litigants in his courtroom. At this time, there is no simple solution. We operate under a system of laws and must rely on that system.  Any exercise of authority that does not exist would do far greater damage to our system of justice. Accordingly, the chief justice believes he has no constitutional authority to “ratify” or “confirm” a judicial appointment. The chief justice will also take no action to exercise his constitutional authority to make a judicial appointment at this time. He will continue to monitor the situation in order to protect the judicial process and all its judges.