Marking another milestone in modern Iowa history, Gov. Terry Branstad today named three new justices to the state Supreme Court.
The three men, two judges and a lawyer, will fill vacancies created when Iowans voted on Election Day to oust three sitting justices, reacting with fury over a 2009 unanimous court ruling that permitted same-sex marriages in the state.
The appointees are Edward Mansfield, a judge on the Iowa Court of Appeals since 2009, according to an Associated Press article; Bruce Zager, a district judge since 1999; and lawyer Thomas Waterman. They all are registered Republicans, the Iowa Independent reported. Branstad is Republican.
The removal of three justices who appeared on the retention ballot last year marked the first time that voters opted against keeping a Supreme Court justice since 1962, when the state’s merit selection system for choosing judges was adopted, a Des Moines Register article said.
Branstad said his goal “was to choose Supreme Court justices, from the available slate of candidates, who are most likely to faithfully interpret the laws and Constitution, and respect the separation of powers,” according to a Radio Iowa report.
Waterman was in the news recently when it was reported that he had donated $7,500 months ago to the campaign of Branstad (see Gavel Grab). Waterman said he never knew, when he made the donations, that there would be any vacancies.
Waterman also gave $250 to the campaign of an attorney general candidate, Brenna Findley, who now is Branstad’s legal counsel and who helped him interview finalists for the three Supreme Court openings. Branstad said earlier he would not be influenced in his selections by the donations.
Waterman brings private sector experience to the bench, Branstad said, Mansfield brings experience from private practice and the Appeals Court, and Zager, from private practice and district court.
Since the terms of the three ousted justices expired, the Iowa Supreme Court has not had a female justice, placing it among the state high courts with the least gender diversity in the nation. A screening commission that interviewed candidates for the vacancies recommended nine finalists, one of them a woman, to Branstad.