Monday, November 15, 2010

Iowa Governor: If I get the Supreme Court nominations, I'll fill the vacancies

Gov. Chet Culver said Monday that if given the opportunity he will appoint Iowa’s three Supreme Court justice vacancies before Republican Terry Branstad takes office on Jan. 14.

Jayson Clayworth, reporter for the Des Moines Register has reported in his blog, Iowa Politics Insider, that Iowa's outgoing Democratic governor, Chet Culver, who lost to former Republican governor Terry Branstad, will appoint replacements for the three Iowa Supreme Court judges ousted in an anti-gay-marriage campaign.

A nonpartisan panel will send finalists to the governor for selection and that process could be completed before Jan. 14th.

“They decide the timeline, they decide the names they send and we don’t know what that timeline will look like, but if they send those names to me I will exercise my duties as governor as I am required to do,” said Culver in an interview with the Associated Press.

Culver, who supports marriage rights for same-sex couples, previously has told reporters after the Nov. 2 election that he didn’t know how or if he would act on the judge reappointment issue. His statements Monday were the clearest to date of his intentions.

The window in which Culver might have the opportunity to appoint the judges is slim. The vetting process could not begin until Nov. 29 at the earliest, when the results of Tuesday’s retention election are certified.

Then the merit selection commission that interviews statewide judicial candidates and sends them to the governor has to allow time for judges and lawyers to apply. That’s usually a month.

The commission then has 60 days to select three nominees for the governor. The governor then has 30 days to fill the bench.

“Logistically it’s certainly possible that it could move by Jan. 14,” said former Iowa Supreme Court Justice Mark McCormick, who is also a former member of the commission. “It’s a chance. Whether in fact it will move that fast, it’s really up to the commission itself.”

...A message late Monday afternoon for Iowa judicial branch Administrator David Boyd was not returned.

“Complaints be damned. If he wants to do it and if the names are forwarded to him while he’s still governor, there’s nothing Branstad or anyone else can do,” said Arthur Sanders, a political science professor at Drake University.

...Gov.-elect Branstad has publicly urged Culver not to appoint sucessors to Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justices Michael Streit and David Baker.

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