Iowa Supreme Court
Judicial Selection Method: Missouri Plan
7 Justices
1 year minimum initial terms, 8 year full terms
State High Court & Judicial Nominating Commission Composition & Terms of Judicial Nominating Commission Judicial Selection Process Legal Authority
    • 17 members:
    • 8 elected members who are elected by resident members of the Iowa state bar in each congressional district
    • 9 appointed by the Governor, subject to Senate confirmation
    • 1 chairperson, elected by the commission members from their own number

Terms: 6 years (staggered)


  • Commission submits a list of three nominees from which the Governor must choose one.
  • At the end of a Justice’s term, the Justice will be subject to a statewide retention election and will continue for another term if the Justice is retained.

Interim Vacancies

  • Vacancies in the supreme court and district court shall be filled by appointment by the Governor from lists of nominees submitted by the appropriate judicial nominating commission.
  • Three nominees shall be submitted for each supreme court vacancy, and two nominees shall be submitted for each district court vacancy.
  • If the Governor fails for thirty days to make the appointment, it shall be made from such nominees by the chief justice of the supreme court.

Percentage of Lawyers on the Nominating Commission

Who Selects the Nominating Commissioners?

    Docket Watch

  • Iowa Supreme Court Deeply Divided on Whether the Iowa Constitution Contains a Right to Education

    In April, the Iowa Supreme Court rejected a plea to read a right to a “minimally sufficient” education into Iowa’s Constitution. The case, King v. State,1 is noteworthy for that ruling alone—especially because education reform was at the top of the legislative agenda in Iowa this year. But the five separate opinions—totaling 163 pages—are about much more than education. Several issues surfaced in this case, chief among them constitutional interpretation and the role of the judiciary. The justices also wrangled over how to apply the rational-basis test, issue preservation, and the pleading requirements applicable to a motion to dismiss. The case also highlights the split among the justices that formed when Justices Waterman, Mansfield, and Zager joined the court after the 2010 retention election.

  • Gay Marriage Update: New England, Iowa, Wisconsin, and California

    Litigation regarding gay marriage and other gay rights issues continues throughout the several states, and it is increasingly likely that the Supreme Court of the United States will rule on whether the United States Constitution guarantees a right to gay marriage. This article, a synopsis of the status of gay marriage in various states, analyzes recent court decisions in hopes of illuminating the relevant legal arguments. This article also highlights the most well-organized efforts and key players in the campaigns to legalize gay marriage at the state level.

  • Judicial Election

    Judges are elected by popular vote.
  • Democratic Appointment

    Judges are appointed directly by a democratic body, or appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of some democratic body.