State Judicial Building

Eight Democrats in the Iowa House and an attorney from Cedar Rapids are filing a lawsuit, seeking to block changes in the commission that nominates candidates for openings on the Iowa Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.

Representative Brian Meyer, a Democrat from Des Moines who’s joined the lawsuit, said they’re arguing the changes are unconstitutional because the plan was included in a bill with a wide range of other topics.

“It’s a provision in the constitution that prohibits log-rolling, which is having multiple subjects in one bill,” Meyer told Radio Iowa. “This was a very controversial issue…and it was slammed through at the last minute.”

Governor Kim Reynolds approved the plan last week and has already used her new authority to appoint another member to the Judicial Nominating Commission. Meyer said the group is initially seeking an injunction to prevent the man Reynolds appointed to the commission from joining it.

“This was done backroom deal, last minute, as part of a massive bill…but this was such an important subject that it should have had lots of public discussion and lots of input from the public,” Meyer said.

Representative Steven Holt, a Republican from Denison, led the House effort to come up with the final plan that won approval from the Republican majority.

“It’s not a surprise that they’re making what I consider to be a desperate attempt because they know full well that what we did was constitutional,” Holt told Radio Iowa, “so instead of going after it legally on the merits of what we did, they’re going after it based on where we passed the legislation.”

Last week, Governor Reynolds said the changes to the Judicial Nominating Commission “give all Iowans a greater voice in the process.” Reynolds indicated she preferred the initial plan senators approved in mid-March, but the governor said the final plan that cleared the legislature in late April was adapted to address concerns that had been raised.

The lawsuit filed by eight Democrats in the Iowa House also challenges a section of the plan that changes the term for the chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court — arguing that violates the separation of powers between the three branches of state government.