Rep. Steven Holt. (IA Legislature photo)

A key lawmaker is taking steps to launch an investigation of a northern Iowa judge accused of manipulating the process for nominating a district court judge.

House Judiciary Committee chairman Steven Holt of Denison, a Republican, has introduced a resolution that would give his committee authority to investigate Judge Kurt Stoebe of Humboldt.

“If these allegations are true, then they go beyond just an individual’s service on a commission and speak to their integrity on the bench,” Holt said during a news conference this morning.

In November, Governor Reynolds said other members of the nomination commission told her Stoebe coached a candidate and make negative comments about another who was applying to be a district court judge. The governor ordered the commission to reconvene to redo the process in November and Stoebe stepped down as the commission’s leader.

Holt said serious allegations have been made against Stoebe and the legislature needs to exercise its oversight authority to seek more information and, if necessary, issue subpoenas to get it.

“If indeed a judge is willing to commit these acts in order to advance a favored candidate, including lying about one of the candidates withdrawing their name from consideration, how can an attorney or a citizen come before this judge and have faith in the integrity of the process?” Holt asks.

Holt said his proposal is not an impeachment resolution, but an attempt to discover whether the allegations against Stoebe are true and whether he faces sanctions for his conduct. Representative Mary Wolfe of Clinton – the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, told reporters  the legislature has the authority to impeach, but she said this sort of an investigation would be unprecedented.

“We have some concerns that it is opening a door that has never been opened before,” Wolfe said, “and we’re not sure, at this point, what might be on the other side.”

Wolfe said she has “no doubt” the Judicial Qualifications Commission is reviewing the allegations against Stoebe and a legislative investigation would duplicate those efforts, “unnecessarily wasting taxpayer dollars and legislative time.”

Separate bills pending in the House and Senate are proposing changes in the commissions nominating district court judges.