Justice Streit explained the fundamental problems with Governor Reynolds’ actions, and how they threaten rule of law in our state, saying:
“Deadlines and time limits permeate our laws. These deadlines are not meant to be arbitrary, but instead are established to create procedures to ensure our government is conducted according to a rule of law.”
Despite having 30 days to fill the position, Reynolds failed to meet that deadline but went ahead with the appointment anyways. Her excuse for not following the law? She was “too busy.”
Even more baffling, as Justice Streit writes, there’s a very simple solution to this problem:
“A prominent Iowa attorney is preparing a document for Justice Cady to accept the governor’s statement that she made the appointment after she made up her mind. If I can humbly suggest, the document may be written in this way but should, by its end, contain a simple clause declaring the chief justice makes the appointment. Problem solved.”
Unfortunately, there have been zero signs that Governor Reynolds is pursuing this common sense solution, instead opting to attempt a political cover up.
“Appointing judges is a pretty basic function of government. It’s incredibly concerning that Governor Reynolds thinks that being “too busy” is an adequate reason not to meet the requirements of her job and the law, and even more troubling that she’s opting to try and cover up this mess instead of just fixing it,” said Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price.
This isn’t even the first time in her short tenure as Governor that Reynolds has broken the law. She was sued last winter for using taxpayer money to cover up her mismanagement of the state budget.
Key excerpts from the column below.
DES MOINES REGISTER [COLUMN]: Gov. Reynolds missed deadline and must comply with the Iowa Constitution
By Justice Michael Streit, October 9th, 2018
Within the last few weeks, it has been revealed the recent appointment of Judge Jason Besler to the 6th Judicial District by Gov. Kim Reynolds appears to have failed the constitutional mandate that judicial appointments must be made within 30 days after the names are submitted for appointment. The constitution provides “If the governor fails for 30 days to make the appointment, it shall be made … by the chief justice of the Supreme Court.” Gov. Reynolds stated she told a staff member but failed to take any next step to properly appoint her choice to the court. She failed to notify the candidate or notify the proper authority in writing of the appointment. A judicial appointment requires more than just a thought.
These circumstances have led many citizens to fear the legal consequences. It does not take much imagination to visualize a federal action by a convicted murderer complaining the conviction was entered by a judge not constitutionally appointed. It could be argued that after 30 days the governor lost the power or jurisdiction to make the appointment, with the Constitution placing this task with the chief justice. This is analogous to a court losing jurisdiction to decide a dispute that was filed after the statute of limitations had passed. A federal court or the Iowa Supreme Court could order a retrial with a different judge – at great human and financial expense – perhaps with a different outcome.
As a judge who served for almost 28 years on the bench – nine years on Iowa’s Supreme Court – I’ve wrestled with a constitutional question or two. I’m also familiar with how our judicial nomination process works. Deadlines and time limits permeate our laws. These deadlines are not meant to be arbitrary, but instead are established to create procedures to ensure our government is conducted according to a rule of law.
By any standards or criteria, Judge Besler is a fine appointment to our bench. While there is no ulterior motive to why Judge Besler or the judicial branch was not notified properly within the 30 days required, the fact of the matter is the ball was dropped. When it comes to our legal system, there is no room for this sort of ambiguity. We owe that much to Judge Besler. We owe more than that to our system of justice.
Although Chief Justice Mark Cady may appoint from either of the two nominees, it seems a reasonable solution for the Chief Justice to properly make the selection of Judge Besler to the 6th Judicial District. A prominent Iowa attorney is preparing a document for Justice Cady to accept the governor’s statement that she made the appointment after she made up her mind. If I can humbly suggest, the document may be written in this way but should, by its end, contain a simple clause declaring the chief justice makes the appointment. Problem solved.
Gov. Reynolds and her staff appear to have made a mistake. There is a simple remedy: Comply with the Constitution.